Robert Rex Waller Jr. and Carla Olson share a keen sense of musical history and tradition, a fact made obvious by See the Big Man Cry, an album that evokes the classic sounds of vintage Pop music from an earlier era. Waller is a formidable singer in his own right, and with Olson helming the proceedings, the album becomes akin to a classic of timeless proportions. Given the formidable set of songs from a wide array of surprisingly diverse sources — among them, Bruce Springsteen, Charlie Louvin, Gene Clark, Bobby Rydell, the Walker Brothers, Bram Tchaikovsky, and Rank and File, it comes across as nothing less than a veritable songbook for the ages.
Waller himself collaborated with Paul Marshall, bassist with the band I See Hawks in LA, to contribute one original, but inevitably, no matter what the source, Robert Rex Waller Jr manages to make each of these offerings his own. His vocals — ranging from a deep baritone to his upper tenor — find an ideal fit, from the eloquently expressive opener “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”, the utterly anthemic “Girl of My Dreams”, and the resolute “Tougher Than the Rest”, to the sheer emotion and heartbreak echoed through the ballads “A Woman’s Touch”, the title track and, finally, “Gypsy Rider”.
The latter, written by Gene Clark, is especially significant, given the fact that Olson frequently collaborated with Clark in his final years. (Notably, Olson’s own recently-released solo album, Have Harmony, Will Travel 3, features three duets with Clark, as well as one with Waller Jr.)
An exceptional cast of supporting musicians assist in this endeavor, among them, Waller’s Hawks cohorts Paul Lacques and Paul Marshall, John York (The Byrds, Doug Sahm’s band), Benjamin Lecourt (The Wallflowers), Skip Edwards (Dave Alvin, Dwight Yoakham), Stephen McCarthy (The Long Ryders, The Jayhawks), Gia Ciambotti (Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen), Gregg Sutton (Joe Cocker, Barry Goldberg), as well as Olson herself. The songs are sequenced thematically to include a pop and rock side as well as an Americana and country set.
Ultimately, See the Big Man Cry comes across as a magnificent representation of a vintage sound, one flush with resilience and resolve. It’s a tribute, not only to the talented musicians involved, but to the very essence of the popular music tradition itself. In that regard, it’s nothing less than absolutely essential. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Robert Rex Waller from AMAZON
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