Brian Olive already had an impressive career working with some of the more notable figures on the Midwest garage rock and punk blues scene before he reinvented himself with his first solo album in 2009. An Ohio native, Olive got his start in music when he was in high school, playing guitar in a band called Us and Them that would evolve into the celebrated garage rock combo, The Greenhornes. Olive appeared on the group’s first two albums, 1999’s Gun For You and 2000’s The Greenhornes, but parted ways with the band to focus his energies on another project, The Soledad Brothers. Formed by two fellow Ohioans, Johnny Wirick (aka Johnny Walker) and Ben Smith (aka Ben Swank), Olive relocated to Detroit with the band and, like his new bandmates, adopted a stage name, Oliver Henry.
The Soledad Brothers struck up a friendship with Jack White, whose group The White Stripes were just starting to earn some local buzz, and White produced the band’s self-titled debut album (with Meg White helping out on percussion). Olive played keyboards, guitar, sax, and flute with The Soledad Brothers, but after recording the band’s second album, Steal Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit to Move, he parted ways with the band and left the Midwest looking for a new musical direction.
Reclaiming the name Brian Olive, he decided he wanted to form a band where he would call the shots, and relocated to Cincinnati, where he helped set up The Diamonds recording studio in the basement of a jewelry store and began working up material with a handful of like-minded musicians. The sessions evolved into Olive’s self-titled debut album, released in June 2009, which found him exploring blues, R&B, jazz, garage rock, and psychedelia with equal degrees of skill and eclecticism. The sophomore release Two Of Everything followed in 2011, with Olive and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keyes sharing production duties. In 2012, Olive co-wrote and played on the Auerbach-produced, Grammy winning Dr. John album, Locked Down, for which Olive also received a Grammy.
In November 2016, Olive finished up his third solo album, Living On Top, which he wrote, produced and mixed in The Diamonds, his studio in the Northside of Cincinnati. The album ties together just about everything that’s crossed Olive’s transom since his days with The Greenhornes and The Soledad Brothers – up to and including the songwriting and playing skills that earned him a Grammy and a place in Dr. John’s musical legacy. Living On Top showcases Brian’s innate musical ability and cross-pollination prowess tying together rock, funk, R&B, soul, pop, African rhythms with his laid back style to create an album that achieves what so few do any more – 10 songs of back-to-back listening pleasure.
morE BRIAN OLIVE MUSIC
Released in 2014, Move skates across the avenues of soul, rock, jazz and psych rock in wonderful and exciting ways. Olive serves up a heady mix of groove and rhythm, galvanized by his sense of timeliness and timelessness, punctuated by his ever-expanding expertise in the studio.
Two of everything
On his second solo album, former Greenhornes and Soledad Brothers guitarist Brian Olive once again offers an eclectic variety of R&B-based sounds, but his approach has changed just a bit. For Two of Everything, Olive enlisted the production expertise of Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys, and while the album still has a solid, bluesy foundation, the songs here sound cooler and slinkier, with echoes of vintage funk and groove jazz cropping up in the mix, and a good bit more refinement audible in the melodies and performances compared to his self-titled debut. Two of Everything doesn't sound like Olive has turned his back on his blues-based earlier work, but he is veering in a different direction; the results sometimes suggest a Midwestern take on Northern soul as Olive and Auerbach throw just a little pop polish on Olive's vocals and let the pianos and saxophones give the music a subtle but distinct retro feel, even as the steady pulse of several tunes nods politely to hip-hop. But even as Two of Everything travels down a smoother road than its precursor, it still sounds organic, committed, and heartfelt, and Olive sure knows how to write a memorable tune; "Strange Attracter" faces a chunky, T. Rex-style guitar figure against an insistent piano-and-drum pattern that fills up the dance floor; "Black Sliding Soul" suggests an unlikely but effective collaboration between NRBQ and Mark Ronson; "Left Side Rock" bounces hard Southern funk rhythms off aggressive horn samples, and "Lost in Dreams" is a beautifully languid bit of stoned soul love pleading. With Two of Everything, Brian Olive is two for two in making smart, distinctive albums that push his blues and R&B influences in unexpected, compelling directions, matching and building on the strength of his debut. - Mark Deming, AllMusic.com
Brian Olive used to deliver potent garage rock guitar with the Greenhornes and blues-punk sax hollering with the Soledad Brothers, but he's expanded his sonic palette in a big way on his first solo album. Most of the tunes on Brian Olive are rooted in rhythm & blues in one way or another, but the man sure isn't shy about showing how many ways he can bend the sound to his will; "Stealin'" is a funky New Orleans second-line shuffle, "Jubilee Line" has a bassline James Jamerson would have been happy to call his own fortified with free jazz sax wailing, "High Low" reveals echoes of 1950s cool jazz for bachelor pads, and "Killing Stone" is a piano-based rocker that recalls the early-'70s Rolling Stones. Olive also dips his toes into breezy faux-tropicalia on the light and sensuous "Echoing Light" and some tripped-out acoustic psychedelia on "There Is Love." Olive clearly scores high on the eclecticism checklist, but he's also a fine songwriter, generating memorable tunes regardless of his stylistic bag, and he's put together a solid backing band for these sessions (including fellow Greenhornes Jared McKinney and Craig Fox and ex-Heartless Bastards Mike Weinel), and if his vocals aren't always as strong as the arrangements that surround them (he sounds more comfortable on the quieter numbers than the ones where he needs to belt it out), he has the right feel if not always the proper degree of force. Overall, Brian Olive is an impressive and pleasing solo debut that shows his chops as a producer, arranger, and songwriter make him more than just some Midwest sideman, and he should get back into the studio posthaste if there's more where this came from. Mark Deming, AllMusic.com