By B. Simm
CALGARY — We all want a kinder, gentler world. A world filled with peace, love and understanding free from the destructive downward spiral of the disintegrating relationship. Most of us have been on that slide before. And if you haven’t, you probably will. And if you have, you’ll probably find yourself going down it once again. The grip of love is never ending.
Subtle As A Hurricane is Tom Olsen’s debut country recording. It’s taken a while for the journalist/communicator cum singer-songwriter, now pushing 50 years of age, to finally hit his artistic stride and deliver a catalogue full of heartfelt and heartache that’s all killer and no filler. There’s a lot of living in those 12 tracks; Olsen pulls no punches. It’s a little rough for those that don’t like to confront the power and pitfalls of love with all of its complexities
“Some people have said after listening to it, ‘Wow. You’re the angriest man ever!’ But I’m not,” says Olsen smiling, his warm, wide grin more than convincing the dude is simply not a demon disguised as a nice guy. The only thing you can see in that smile is someone who’s upfront, honest and quite charming. Yet it’s hard then to dial in on his mean-spirited remarks when he sarcastically urges his lover during a real firefight to “tell all your friends, that I’m the enemy.”
“I’m only angry when I write,” explains Olsen. “I’ve been through a series of relationships, and I always break my own heart. And the way I think is that I’m going to write my way through this, whatever darkness has descended on me. Sometimes, it’s like I’m not going to be able to write my way through, then I always do. But I have to feel it. I have to write what I’m really feeling. If I just turn something out because it’s easy to rhyme, and that’s how we tend to write, we rhyme words, but if I do that, and think too much about it instead of feel it, it’s not a song I’m going to keep and play live. I have to feel it.”
Olsen pauses, while we sit under an umbrella, drinking Starbuck’s finest basking in a bit of shade. He’s uneasy about his “feel it” comments. “Fuck, I hope that doesn’t sound precocious or pretentious,” he says, winching.
Pretention is not part of Olsen’s makeup. It’s no secret that the older an artist gets the more subdued they become. Complacency sets in; things get watered-down and done by the book, rendering a polished product as some sort of measure of professionalism. But Olsen remains fiery: his songs, his voice, his guitars tough and bold. There’s a fierceness, a raw nerve — Olsen’s cut from the cloth of real emotion.
How long, how long will you pour your poison over me
How long, how long will you haunt and hurt and torture me
How long, how long will you stick your pins into my limbs
Till I can’t breathe or feel a thing
“How Long” was written 10 years ago when Olsen was in the midst of a divorce and during a time and place that he was fueled by anger and bitterness.
“It’s very easy for me to complicate my life, and fuck up what I’m involved in…. I find that some of the songs I wrote years ago still have that effect on me. I don’t love playing them because it pulls me back to that place sitting on the couch in the apartment, post-divorce, trying to figure out what I’m going to do, and I don’t love it. And I keep thinking maybe if I keep playing them they won’t have that effect. But,” Olsen asks the uncomfortable question, “I don’t know if that’s true or not.”
Sometimes the wounds don’t heal. There’s no relief from the grip of love.
Tom Olsen and the Wreckage with Run Deer Run play Wine-Ohs Sat., July 18 and Sun., July 19. You can listen to Subtle As A Hurricane on their website.AB, Alberta, Tom Olsen, Wine-Ohs