There are always a handful of comparisons that can be made about really any artist. A wise man once told me that we should never base an opinion on someone because they “sound like someone” because even the “original sounds” are based on an influence that musician experienced had at some point.
Now I wasn’t just waiting for a moment to express my appreciation for such a thought; rather Rolla Olak brings it out in oneself. For those skimming for a “sounds like” phrase, to appease, let’s toss it in with Tom Petty meets Crazy Horse meets UnAmerican. Folk/Rock meets Americana/Rock with swaggering purpose and very real musicianship. For the rest of us, it needs to be known that Rolla Olak is very much an original sound developed off great sounds laid before him.
Western Heart is the follow up to 2009’s self-titled LP. In 2009 it felt as though Olak was making an attempt at expressing himself through a sound he wasn’t entirely sure of. “Swamp Fang” alone is worth checking out Rolla Olak, but the album stretches around, not quite grasping what I would be comfortable calling “True Rolla Olak.” That is, now that I know what true “Rolla Olak” is.
Splendidly arranged, memorable, and easily thrown into your regular mix, Western Heart solidifies Rolla Olak as a serious contender from the moment you hit play. Queuing off the record with “Heart That Won’t Let Go,” Olak instantly divides uncertainty from proud confidence, stands on the latter and proclaims he’s leaving and you either go with him or stay complacent. If you don’t jump on that train, I’m likely to shove you off the platform. Transitioning into “Karolina” then to “God Only Knows (feat. Louise Burns)” we settle into a sound which gives hope and crafts instant fans. Vocally light and leaning on electric guitar with minimal effects Olak allows Western Heart to breathe without becoming inundated by elaborate styles and over production. To which my hat is off and I say well done sir. Well done indeed. Because as the album progresses through to the B-Side of “Magic Spell,” with its swaggering riff, and down through “Rainy Days,” with its simple beauty, the reaffirmation of the quality that is Western Heart is not hard to find. “Rainy Days,” which integrates rain sound effects, takes you into a room of a man, with his guitar, staring out the window longing for a love as “These rainy days/they remind me of you.”
Could we throw some superficial comparisons at Western Heart? You bet. Would any of them do Rolla Olak and his sound justice? Not at all. I strongly encourage any and all to pick up this album, sit down with it. Honestly sit down and allow yourself to be taken away by its art. The results are memorable and grand. Rolla Olak took aim at a feat that a lot of musicians attempt, but he came out the other side with something to be very proud of. I was an instant fan and will be a fan for as long as he keeps gracing us with his sound.