As an old soul trapped in the feverishly creative and restless mind of a young artist, Angel Olsen has a lot to say, and it often comes out in a torrent of hot-blooded emotion. Her 2012 LP, Half Way Home—an unsettling apparition of folk-tinged Americana—found her exploring the reaches of her supple voice, which can transform from muted whisper to pained warble in an instant, via cutting lyrics of love, loss, regret and redemption.
Out this month, Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar) literally turns up the volume; on most of the new album, Olsen is joined by an expertly rough-and-tumble back band—a bold change for a singer-songwriter who holds her music close, like a gunslinger’s weapon. From the punkish romp of “Forgiven/Forgotten” to the plaintive, Orbisonesque “Hi-Five,” Olsen touches a fresh nerve, while still showing us the quiet, smoldering side (on the epic “White Fire” and the album’s closer, “Windows”) for which she’s known.
Olsen brings it all to the stage this week, headlining a bill that features Dublin-born guitarist and John Fahey acolyte Cian Nugent, and up-and-coming troubadour Jaye Bartell. Heartstrings pulled to the breaking point never sounded so good.—Bill Murphy