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David Olney and Sergio Webb perform at The Englert Theatre

BY CARLY HURWITZ | AUGUST 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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Fans of David Olney know they can find in him coffeehouses, small halls, bars, and festivals — but not, as of yet, in a stadium concert.

So Olney is keeping it intimate in an Iowa City show this weekend, bringing his '60s-influenced sound to the Englert Theatre's "Intimate at the Englert"series.

"I've never really gone to a show in a stadium; there's no real contact between the performer and the audience, and that to me is where there's real voodoo in the show," Olney said.

He, along with his longtime electric guitarist Sergio Webb, will get personal with fans at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Englert, 221 E. Washington St. Tickets are $15; only around 100 seats are available.

His intelligent compositions combine singing, storytelling, and transfusing some of his stories into unforgettable characters.

"I think what makes me a bit different from others is that I'm not strictly interested in writing about myself," said the creative and passionate Olney. "I find it very liberating to inject myself into someone else."

It can be a challenge to fit a story into a brief time frame, but he manages to do it time after time, with intensity one minute and wit the next.

"One great thing about David and Sergio's shows is that there's a feeling that anything can happen at any time," said Kevin Gordon, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop who is a big fan of Olney and a well-known singer/songwriter in his own right. "One minute David's singing 'Women Across the River,' next he's reciting John Keats, then moving over to Leadbelly … The more intimate the setting, the scarier he can be."

Byron Stuart, the owner of Byron's, a small bar in Pomeroy, Iowa, where Olney performs, agrees with Gordon.

"[Olney] is an amazing storyteller in his music," Stuart said. "If you enjoy sitting and listening to live music, you will be mesmerized the entire time."

The musician plans to perform some new tunes for his show on Saturday. Some of Olney's latest projects include his rendition of "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'," the classic written by Lee Hazlewood, and the May 24 release of "David Olney Presents: Film Noir," a five-song thematic mini-album.

The EP strays from his typical sound and channels his darker side, he said. But his unique storytelling and characters remain abundant.

Having performed with him for four years, Olney said, Webb adds "that extra dimension." Webb plays electric guitar, and Olney plays classical.

"[His style] takes it out of an acoustic framework," Olney said. "If you say it's an acoustic act, [people] assume it's sensitive and soft sounding."

Stuart, who hosts bands, singles, duos, jam bands, and bluegrass musicians, raved about Webb's talent.

"He's got that minimalist approach," Stuart said. "He doesn't play a lot of notes, but each one is filled with emotion," Gordon said, "The quality of [Olney's] work and his live delivery of those songs draw in anyone who's listening. He and [Webb] have played together for a long time and have that kind of musical telepathy going on — they're as much fun to watch as they are to hear."

The small show at the Englert should be an ideal setting for the duo to rock the house and connect with the audience.

"I often think of David as the Buddha for those artists and writers who are trying to do something real from here in 'NashVegas,' " Gordon said. "It's clear that when he plays, it's not about him — I don't think he gives a crap about the show biz, although his desert-dry stage banter can be pretty damned funny. It's about the music."


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