Jill Olson 

My Best Yesterday

No, that's not Lisa Loeb -- don't let the glasses fool you -- that's Jill Olson, bassist/singer with the Bay Area's premier high-cholesterol honky-tonk outfit Red Meat. (She was also a member of locals the Movie Stars.) Olson's got lots of songs in her, some of which don't fit on Red Meat's menu, and in the grand tradition of the Rock 'n' Roll Side Project, she's got a thing going on the side where she can satisfy her jonesing for classic '60s derived folk/pop-rock. My Best Yesterday is the long-awaited follow-up to her 1996 jangle-pop gem The Gal Who Would Be King, and, for the most part, stylistically it's a refinement of its predecessor: guitars that ring with a chiming sound à la Searchers (or for younger readers, the bands on the Elephant 6 label) with just a touch of trebly twang; pretty folk-rock melodies rich with yearning and rumination; vivacious, bittersweet vocal and instrumental hooks; snappy, clean-but-not-sterile musicianship; and honest, slightly forlorn vocalizing that reveal lessons learned from the queen of melancholy, Dusty Springfield. But don't get the impression this is a white-girl mopefest -- "Leavenworth" is a sardonic, strutting tour of one of SF's more colorful streets, and the infectious, shimmering sublime pop melancholy of "Other Voices, Other Rooms" will have you reaching for the "repeat" button. Fellow Meatperson Michael Montalto plays his guitars like a true son of James Burton: crisp, bright, engagingly melodic, and not one excess or superfluous note to be heard. He and rhythm guitarist Rick Shea provide a judicious mix of acoustic and electric guitars, giving the songs fullness and atmosphere, facilitated in no small part by Dave Alvin's lean, no-b.s. production job. Here, Olson achieves her own "Wichita Lineman" in "Without You" and gets in touch with her inner Roy Orbison on the mini-epic "Sam." In a world where too many alt.rock women sound like petulant or narcissistic little girls, Jill Olson sings throughout with the hard-won wisdom of a woman forced to grow up.

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