Olga Munding featuring Cody Dickinson, Whatever You Want

olgacoverwebNew Orleans blues singer Olga Wilhelmine Munding and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and Hill Country Revue have teamed up to write and perform a contemporary pop album with an 80's feel. Olga's voice is a smooth blues vocal which has been compared to Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks and the alter ego of Paul Westerberg, Grandpa Boy. She was classicly trained and later heavily influenced by Jessie Mae Hemphill. Olga has a long history of music recording as well as acting, and involvement with cultural celebrations in New Orleans, through the Krewe of Muses. She is a founding member of the Jessie Mae Hemphill foundation in New Orleans.

Cody Dickinson is the son of the late Jim Dickinson and brother of Luther Dickinson. Cody and Luther formed the North Mississippi Allstars (NMA) with bass player Chris Chew. Luther also has recently been on lead guitar with the Black Crowes, but often tours with NMA as well. Cody has been performing and writing music since he was a small child and has been crafting a drum style that is signature to the sounds of North Mississippi and historically reminiscent of the musicians during the era of the Civil War. His father, Jim Dickinson, was a blues piano player, a music producer, and has recorded with Alex Chilton among other legends in the field. Cody and Luther recorded a beautiful, historic and down right house rockin album in honor of their father called "Keys To The Kingdom" which was reviewed here.  

The thread I'm following is the transformation of the roots blues that were planted and sown by RL Burnside, Otha Turner and Jim Dickinson himself. Olga and bands like NMA are not in some type of revival, they are living blues legends now. I am fascinated to watch how they integrate their experience into contemporary music writing.

Olga has several albums prior to this new release that are clearly blues. But after the death of Cody's father and some personal transformations in Olga's life, the team decided that 'letting go' was an important process for them musically.

olgaguitarweb"Whatever You Want" is very different than their other works. It is smooth radio friendly pop and the refreshing drink that is serves will quench your thirst for a new twist on the blues again and again. This album will become part of your daily life as the arrangments are catchy, lyrics are wise and instrumentation is complex. It is a timeless record. Olga and Cody wrote all of these original songs. You will discover something new every time you listen.

The album opens with the easy breezy flow of the title track, Whatever You Want. It is uplifting, melodic, and inspiring, destined to be the radio hit.

They Want More changes the pace quickly toward a mysterious vibe. The recorder threads through the song with repeated lyrics as to not distract. The bridge and end picks up that distinctive NMA sound with some deep guitar licks.

My favorite song on the album is the third one, Call Me When You Figure It Out. I heard this for the first time when I was walking with my iPod and could have walked forever. What I love about it is Olga's voice is so well trained, that is doesn't have to stop at logical points within the song. She extends the lines but never oversings the song. There are elements of surprise in the phrasing just listening to her climb and return. My daughter is studying music and said she, "jumps the octaves and hangs out in high treble C!" There are some piano backup and keyboard effects that give the piece a rich texture and the guitar accents validate the raw southern rock sound at its base. Overall, it soars, as Cody's drums are precisely placed to tick away at the core of it, building appropriate tension and keeping the beat.

Just Take Your Time reminds me of Langhorn's Be Set Free and similar works. The video produced maps out a story of prioitizing what's important and is a nice introduction to Olga and her inviting style.

Birds of Sorrow has a Neville Brothers reggae vibe to me. We also hear a bit more grit from Olga that new listeners told me they find themselves craving from her. The lyrics are wise and able to be generalized to anyone, anywhere with any struggle they may have at anytime. It is this inclusiveness that seems inherent in who she is as a person, given the community works and foundations she's accomplished. There's trouble in life, but with trust and strength within yourself, you move on ~ to the groovy beat of your own journey.

It Comes And It Goes is catchy and ethereal. What is she talking about ? What is "it" ? Keep listening ... it's up to you to define.

Little Is Known is the perfect harmonious, dance-able, drive-able 80's pop song, if that is the sound they were after. The shaker, the hum of the bass line and deep drumming alongside the high backup sounding vocals all come together into a great production. Even the guitar accents and the closing chorus have a retro feel to them, but are folded into a contemporary sound.

Better In Someway is a somber link to the transition of letting go. A slower move toward a steady march, accompanied by a narrower range of sound to lead the path.

It Is What It Is has a technical, demonic groove to it that reminded me of the Hot Swing Jazz genre. I'm not surprised, this is New Orleans !

Nothing More To Say had a Stevie Nicks power to it. I've been a Nicks follower since I can remember. This is almost a power ballad.

Don't Look Back reminded me of the sound that the 10, 000 Maniacs had after Natalie Merchant left. A smoother mix focused on blending the instruments and vocals with a river of undercurrents in the background.

Time For Somebody New is the closing number that signs off with a definitive answer to getting a fresh start, taking care of yourself. Mid-song, Olga belts it out to deliver her message.

It's difficult to imagine that it was just Olga and Cody tinkering away at these songs. They are all somewhat different from each other, yet blend together in a great mix for the whole of the album. I hope they tour with this album, I think it would be great to hear Olga's entire catalog live and Cody's electric washboard is welcome in any town !


"Whatever You Want Track Listing"

1.   Whatever You Want 4:41

2.   They Want More 3:50

3.   Call Me When You Figure It Out 4:13

4.   Just Take Your Time 3:44

5.   Birds of Sorrow 4:47

6.   It Comes and It Goes 3:30

7.   Little is Known 4:39

8.   Better In Someway 3:21

9.   It Is What It Is 4:08

10. Nothing More to Say 3:44

11. Don't Look Back 3:33

12. Time for Somebody New 3:44

Record Label: 219 Records

Release Date: June 2011

Album Credits:

Winn McElroy Producer- Engineer

Olga Wilhelmine Munding- Composer

Olga- Synthesizer, Guitar, Piano, Recorder, Vocals, Producer, Shaker

Cody Dickinson- Synthesizer, Bass, Guitar, Compos

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er, Drums, Producer, Fender Rhodes


Out On The Tiles

Rock Candy Funk Party at the Baked Potato.

Review by Rick Beck.

January 15, 2012

Since this site is fan driven and based, how many would like a chance to see their Guitar Hero play in a tiny intimate place with just a few lucky fans in attendance? How many would like to see Joe laying music for fun with some musical buddies and no pressure to perform to sold out venues such as the Royal Albert Hall? Here's the story of just such an event. Joe Bonamassa having fun with his friends and playing music you never would hear on tour, just for fun and the chance to play some amps and guitars from his extensive collection of rarities.

A dream come true for a lucky few.

 The Venue:

The Baked Potato

The Baked Potato, is a tiny dive bar named for its menu of a dozen or so kinds of stuffed baked potatoes. It's called "The Spud" by those in the know, and has been the venue of choice in the Los Angeles area for famous musicians to jam and relive the early days when they played to small audiences in tiny clubs. Jazz, funk, fusion, even sometimes rock and big band jazz sounds can be heard there on any given night. Mondays are open jam nights for any musician to come and sit in with the house band. It is common for big stars to show up and jam as well. The club is really small, seating maybe 40 or so with standing room for another half dozen. You are seated at tiny tables on tiny chairs squeezed in like sardines around a tiny area that makes up the stage. Intimate, loud, and very, very cool. Think of a place the size of a large garage but the garage band is made up of some of the best musicians in the world. It happens!

The History:

For those Joe Bonamassa fans in Southern California, this singular event last year has become a semi-regular cult following whenever he is home between tours. Joe's friends and fellow musicians at home in LA, one of them, his new drummer Tal Bergman, have a band and like to play Funk and Jazz. Last April, following a tweet by Tal, the word was out that Joe was going to sit in and jam with his buddies at a legendary jazz club in Studio City near Hollywood.

For the last year, whenever Joe and Tal are on break from his relentless touring schedule and at home in Hollywood, they have been jamming at the Spud with Rock Candy Funk Party. The regular members are keyboard wizard Arlan Schierbaum on Moog and B3 (with dual Leslies!), Ron DeJesus on guitar, Tal Bergman on drums, and Mike Merritt on bass. Now Joe Bonamassa is a regular member when he is in town. Guest artists usually sit in on vocals. This month the word was out that the band was going to jam once more for the third time, and was passed to the fanbase in Southern California and friends of the band via fanchat and heads-up emails. It was to happen concurrent with the NAMM convention which brought musicians from all over the world to LA and several were in the audience as well. Tuesday January 17th was the day. As soon as the website put the tickets up it sold out in no time at all. The performances the first two times were legendary and no one who could make it would miss this chance to see the band play again. The day before the gig, Joe Bonamassa tweeted that rehearsals were done and that singer Beth Hart would be sitting in. WOW! Joe and Beth had recently recorded a cd that has been nominated for top awards in Blues music featuring covers of legendary artists like Etta James and more. The buzz was really on now!

Seating is first come first seated and there are only two unobstructed tables in the stagefront area so those of us who are videographers and wanted to record the event again for the global fanbase headed for the venue very early to line up by the door. The club opens about 8, the first set started at 10:30. I was in line at 3:30 and wasn't first. Three other fans who live in LA beat me and my pals who car pooled 2 1/2 hours up from San Diego. They had been there for an hour and a half already! Other fans began arriving over the next few hours and a party was on in front of the bar on the sidewalk. A small Mexican cafe was next door and a liquor store next to it so we were well provided for. Here's a shot taken two hours before the doors opened. Click here for photo. We watched as the band arrived and took the gear in for sound check, greeting each performer as they drove up. Soon the walls were vibrating with music we soon would be hearing and the excitement level jumped several notches as we began to move outside to the funky groove emanating from the club.

The Show:

Shortly after the sound check was done, the door opened and we were let in one at a time with our names checked off the presale list and took our seats. No printed tickets exist for these shows. By agreement, those who had video gear and arrived earliest were taking the best 4 seats right in front of the stage, the rest sat in the next best as the place filled up. Most are off to the side or back by the bar with limited or obstructed viewing. No matter where you sit, the listening is just fine. As the place filled up the buzz started when folks recognized some of the people in the crowd and began whispering and pointing. Steve Perry- Journey, Adrian Smith- Iron Maiden and Dave Amato- REO Speedwagon were there in the crowd. They were left undisturbed because we were all there for one thing. Music by Rock Candy Funk Party!

Soon after all had food and drink, the band members took the stage, picked up their instruments and the first set was on. Here's the set list, more or less adhered to as the band changed their minds several times as the mood struck. The encore list will give you an example. None on the list were played as they decided to play I'm A Man (Winwood) from the first set again so 'whatever' won out. 

Set List from Joe Bonamassa at the Baked Potato

Each song was only a framework for wide ranging jams that ebbed and flowed as each musician took off with his own interpretation for extended solos. They'd joke and chat with the crowd between many songs.

First up, Root Down, a classic by Jimmy Smith which set the funky tone for the evenings fare. A great jam featuring B3 work by Arlan and rotating solos by the rest. Next, Jean Pierre (Miles Davis). More Jazz than Funk with blistering solos by Ron and Joe. Now it was time for the fabulous Beth Hart to take the mic and they played the eponymous track from the cd, For My Friend (Bill Withers), with a fine solo break by Ron while Joe played fills. She was superb.

The setlist had Well Well from the cd next, but crowd pleas changed it to the stunning Etta James song I'd Rather Go Blind from the same cd. Beth's singing and Joe's tender, heartfelt and virtuosic solo break with the band backing produced a soul searing version that left some in tears and the rest stunned by the incredible performance. Here is my video.

The band now finished up the first set with a free form instrumental version of Respect (Redding) straight into I'm A Man (Winwood) which brought the house down. After a break, when many mingled with the band members and stretched their legs, we were off to the second set. They opened with the classic jazz standard Mr. Clean, a favorite of the band with free running solos by all. Pusherman was next (Mayfield), with vocals by Arlan featuring his smoking B3 and Moog work. Now a treat. An original composition by Ron and Tal called The Hint. An extended jam with all taking solos. Joe stepped up next for some Blues with a slowed down version of Memphis Jimmy's (James Clark) Look Over Yonders Wall which he performed on his Black Rock cd. Just superb! They finished up the set with Led Boots, a stomping version of the classic by Jeff Beck. For the encore they decided to do another extended version of I'm A Man which left the audience screaming for more but that was to be it. Not a dud all night long and we cruised back down the freeway in the wee hours a bunch of very happy fans, looking forward to the next chance to hav e a run up the road to the Baked Potato jams with JoeB and Rock Candy Funk Party.

Check out  My Youtube Channel for over 9 hours of videos from the three shows so far if you care to watch more of these rare and superb jams by Joe and his friends.

The Gear:

For the gearheads reading, here is the list of what Joe played that night and his post on his forum.

The Baked Potato rig was ....

Dumble Overdrive special 1981 #0104

Jim Kelley single channel amp restored by Jim in 2010 #013

1953 Fender Telecaster #5088

1963 Fender Stratocaster #L01310

1959 Les Paul standard #9-1951

LOL that should take care of the insurance form...

~ It was a blast literally.... Beth Hart was the highlight for me.

Rick Beck

For more information about Joe Bonamassa check out his website, click here.

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