Wispers and Sighs
Whispers And Sighs is the latest album by David Olney and Anana Kaye and makes a much-anticipated debut on March 19, 2021. Just before the last day of winter. Just before David’s birthday. Just at the right moment. It is an album that had a beautiful beginning. Two songwriters walk into a bar. There is an artist onstage doing eerily familiar covers. It is his commanding stage presence that begged the question. “It’s David Olney, he’s a legend around here! I kinda get nervous around him”, was the reply. That was 2017. Two years of songwriting sessions between David and Anana Kaye later and Whispers And Sighs was born.
Thirteen songs make up Whispers And Sighs, each is a beautifully produced piece of art telling a timeless story. The album speaks to us from another place and time. There is a mystic quality to the songs. The events that brought Anana Kaye, David Olney, and producer Brett Ryan Stewart together were precisely timed as there was an underlying unexplained urgency. Hindsight being what it is, you can’t help not imagine that there was something bigger than these artists orchestrating.
David Olney, was an “Americana Pioneer” singer-songwriter/recording artist, stream-caster and actor. David Olney was well-known worldwide for his indelible songs and powerful live performances. Recorded by Emmylou Harris, Del McCoury, Linda Ronstadt and Steve Earle.
Anana Kaye is a Nashville based Indie Alt-Americana Duo. Hailing from Georgia, the other one, where Argonauts sailed to steal The Golden Fleece and where wine was invented 8000 years ago, Anana Kaye and Irakli Gabriel deliver a unique sound we rarely experience in such potent doses today. With influences including Kate Bush, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and David Bowie their music is a genre bending musical experience akin to twisting the kaleidoscope.
There is a place inside David Olney’s imagination that comes to him in dreams. Perhaps reminiscent of “Dr. Zhivago”. He would meet new friends, Anana Kaye and Irakli Gabriel in this place, perhaps at a bistro near the train station. A place of immense creativity for David, but for Anana and Irakli this place was very real, they lived it. Meeting David in this place required them to dig deep, at times too deep into their past. Whispers And Sighs has a definite European feel. The strings and instrumentation adding Classical influences, a cinematic vibe and a sense of drama that are very much David Olney and god bless Anana and Irakli for bringing that to the record. Whispers And Sighs fuses David’s imagination with the separation and war-torn truth that Anana and Irakli lived. It’s art and pain meeting at extremes.
Upon hearing the demos, Brett immediately suggested a string section on a number of songs, especially a cello. Anana had already done some keyboard arrangements and liked the idea. David was thrilled. It was like reuniting identical twins separated at birth. David, Anana, Irakli, and Brett sketched out a plan for the recording of the album, but perhaps the best direction was accomplished by having the right pieces in place and allowing natural intuition room to play. A solemn cello and violin instrumental, “The Station (Prelude)”, opens the album. For those of us in attendance at The Station Inn for his Last Show of 2018, David introduced a song he had just written with two hot new songwriters in town, Anana Kaye and Irakli Gabriel. Brett Ryan Stewart was at that show too, he took notice. Those strings, along with familiar upright bass and drums, seamlessly flow into “My Favorite Goodbye”. A hauntingly beautiful ballad that will instantly worm its way into your story. We’ve all had to become familiar with goodbyes as of late, David’s words somehow make it okay. Next, an infectious guitar riff and simple drum beat perfectly accentuate Anana Kaye’s sultry vocals on “My Last Dream Of You”, lyrics that offer permission to feel the effects of the past year, “It’s the yearning, it’s the wonder, that I miss most of all; and the sound of your laughter, the way your tears would fall”. How DO we know if we’re dreaming when everything seems so real?. Then, BAM! like a rock-n-roll heartbeat, “Lie To Me Angel”, rolls in with Olney’s dramatic vocals, driving percussion and keyboards, punctuated with horns and electric guitar. A trademark, “King Lear” performance bringing the song to a dramatic end, (as a side note, David passed away before he could add his performance to the recording. Fortuitously, Irakli had recorded David performing the passage at his sold out “The 5-Spot, East Nashville 2020 end of year” show). It was a barn burner and could never be reproduced in the studio, proof perhaps of another hand at play.
Truthfully, every song on Whispers And Sighs is stunning. “Thank You Note” is a sultry and mysterious Bossa Nova. “Behind Your Smile” is the quintessential Olney string ballad love song with lyrics like, “Will I ever understand, a stranger is a long-lost friend, how can I keep this hope alive? After all’s been said and done, beneath the moon, beneath the sun, the truth is always there behind your smile.“ (you’re going to cry, own it). “Why Can’t We Get This Right” is a lovely duet set to a waltz. “Last Days Of Rome” comes in like a Rolling Stone and Anana rocks it, and Olney dramatically brings it home. The title track, “Whispers And Sighs” perhaps gives us the most intimate look into the imaginary land of Davids mentioned earlier. Instrumentation fluctuating between the dreamlike and the dramatic much like that of the writers’ frames of reference. The drama continues with, “The World We Used To Know”. “Tennessee Moon” is tender with its delicate keys, strings, and french horn. David Olney performs a dramatic “call and response” on “The Great Manzini (Disappearing Act)”, the last song of the album. Again, the lyrics written from another century are all too real today.
Whispers And Sighs is timeless. Written before everything that has happened this past year, yet these songs feel at home with what the world is recently experiencing. They are universally appealing, timely and brilliant. Those of us familiar with David Olney will see that this album shines him in a new light. It’s more than the writing, David’s perspective is different. At least four lives shifted when those two songwriters walked into a bar. Whispers And Sighs stands witness.
All of the songs on Whispers And Sighs are written by David Olney, Irakli Gabriel and Anana Kaye. Long time friend and Olney songwriting collaborator John Hadley added his pen to several songs on the album. Contributing artists and musicians on Whispers And Sighs include long time Olney bandmate Dan Seymour on bass, Chris Benelli on drums and percussion, Chris Donohue on bass, Seth Ondracek on bass, Austin Hoke on cello, Derek Pell on violin, Dick Aven saxophone, Kristen Englenz french horn, Rosemary Fossee backing vocals. Production by Brett Ryan Stewart. Mastering by Richard Dodd.
By now we are all familiar with how the story ends. David was on tour as Irakli Gabriel, Anana Kaye, and Producer Bret Ryan Stewart were in the studio finishing the last, late night finishes on the album. They all were excited about touring the new album, Whispers And Sighs, beginning with their Folk Alliance New Orleans debut the following week. The last of the edits were done. The album was in the can. When at last they checked their phones, shockingly David had passed away during the 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida. The album release on hold, Anana, Irakli, and Brett were given the gift, and the pain, of one more year with David Olney as they painfully created videos for the new album, spinning gold from straw. The release of the first single and accompanying video coincided with the first anniversary of David’s death.
David Olney. The elder statesman, father-figure, icon, role model, artist, thespian, playful, inquisitive, intense, lover of life; a humble, purposeful rambler; perpetually at the top of his game. He left it all on stage for the sake of the song, and given the opportunity would do it all again with just as much gusto. David was prolific, we haven’t seen the last of him yet and I hope Anana Kaye and Irakli Gabriel continue to help unleash his magic. Till then, turn it up and close your eyes. Whispers And Sighs is one for the ages, listen for the sound of the genie being released from the bottle. There it is.
- Viola Krouse