Solid songwriting needs no frills
by Tony Bennett
For the Duluth News Tribune
Published Thursday November 22, 2012
I already was planning on writing about Ol Yeller leader Rich Mattson
as a kind of Iron Range Paul Westerberg, and then the guy starts name-checking
the Replacements and Bob Stinson on the last track of his bands
brand-new reunion album. So, lets get into it.
Rich Mattson should be famous. Not Katy Perry or U2 famous, but fame on
the level of the aforementioned singer of the as-yet-unreunited Mats.
Because whatever he does is good. Its not always mind-blowing, but
you know youre getting quality songwriting, singing and musicianship
with his projects. As the one-sheet bio that came with the promo copy
of this album says: Mattson began writing songs in 1981, at the
age of fourteen. You can go ahead and do the math yourself, but
what this means is that Rich Mattson knows what hes doing. And he
has for some time.
His decades of songwriting practice pay off nicely on Levels,
the first Ol Yeller record since that band closed up shop about
six years ago.
Frills, you ask?
Guitars, bass, drums, vocals. A very low-power trio. Once every so often,
there will be a xylophone tinkling in the background, maybe a shaker hissing
away on a chorus, but this band is very meat and potatoes. Same with the
songs-two chords, three chords, maybe a fourth. Couple that with some
honest lyrics and a nice melodic hook, and thats it. Thats
what he does in his other band, The Tisdales; in his other band, Junkboat;
and in whatever else hes doing on any particular day. This guys
not writing prog-rock epics any time soon. Hes churning out barebones
Minnesota-set anthems like a kind of Robert Pollard of the north.
Those anthems, which Mattson records himself in his Sparta, Minn., studio-a
converted country church that doubles as his home - are in abundance on
The set starts unassumingly with the half-time Like a Plan,
a song that comes off like a reverby mission statement for Mattson as
a human, and for Levels as an album. Amid talk of ghosts and
agin, Mattson sings in his sandpapered-honey voice that he doesnt
like to beg or borrow, and if he cant do something himself, he waits
for something else, and it comes. Starting off your album talking
about how unfazed you are most of the time isnt common in rock n
roll, which historically is a home for people with axes to grind. But
Mattson makes it work, even though the next track coins a word (Scrutinizers)
to define the people who might be prone to throwing a guy under a microscope.
The tune deftly pairs a funky backbeat from drummer Keely Lane with a
dark grunge verse riff that is paid off by a triumphant chorus.
Growing Roots pairs some later-Kinks vibes with some nicely
dissonant Joey Santiago-style guitar lines. I aint no kid/I
aint no good at takin orders, Mattson sings, not as
punk aggression, but as a statement of fact.
The album cruises along nicely from there, without a duff track in the
bunch. Silver Bullet comes on like a droning acoustic two-step
with serious Norwegian Wood DNA, but when you realize the
lyric seems to be about a dead werewolf instead of Coors, things get juiced
considerably. Later, no less than three song titles have words with dropped
Gs in them. This is blue-collar stuff, but its not a pose.
If youre into rock n roll and you have yet to discover
one of the best tunesmiths in Minnesota history, theres no reason
you cant start here. Mattson clearly is having fun hooking up with
his former compadres, and the whole record has a looking-back-while-looking-forward
vibe not unlike that of Neil Youngs new Psychedelic Pill.
Long may they both run. Recommended.
Tony Bennett reviews music for the News-Tribune.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: VitaMN OL' YELLER
Updated 9:46 PM on 12/5/2012 Friday: Loved in the early aughts, this
alt-country act is back for more local adulation.
9:30 P.M. LEE'S LIQUOR LOUNGE $7
Like summertime lakes and sleepy hometowns, Ol' Yeller is something you
don't realize how much you missed until you soak up its comfort once again.
The classic-sounding, guitar-jangly, Uncle Tupelo-meets-CCR trio is back
from a half-decade hiatus, in which time frontman Rich Mattson returned
to the Iron Range to start his rural Sparta Studio and form a noisier
garage-rock band (the Tisdales), while drummer Keely Lane took up gigging
in Nashville. They recently reconvened at Mattson's place to try out new
songs, and lo and behold they wham-bammed an album that reiterates why
they were one of the best-loved local bands of the early-'00s -- and maybe
now the early-'10s. Titled "Levels," it offers a few mellow
acoustic gems between barnstorming rockers, and ends with one of the all-time
best odes to the Twin Cities music scene, "Love to Rock." Germaine
Gemberling and the Brothers Burn Mountain open. CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
Ol Yeller, Levels Review by Jom Hunt
L'etoile Magazine 11/28/12
Rich Mattson has always been a bit of an anomaly in the Minneapolis scene.
Too punk to be country, too twangy to be flannel-rock, Mattson lives in
the strange hinterland previously occupied by folks like Uncle Tupelos
Jay Farrar defiantly garagey, petulantly old-school, and popular
when the zeitgeist rotates around and embraces that sound (as it does
every five or six years). Of all the ensembles hes been a part of
(Glenrustles, Tisdales, et. al.), Ol Yeller is the most rough-and-ready:
picture a mid-80s Crazy Horse in love with Dinosaur Jr. and youre
halfway there, if youve not heard em. Levels, their first
record in six years, is full of potent, whip-ass guitar-rock and a few
stompy, twangy rockers, and if thats your bag and it should
be, dammit, youre from the Midwest youll love it.
There aint a lick of studio gloss on Levels. It sounds like the
band turned on the amps, let em warm up, cranked the volume to ten
(so everything has that fuzzy analog buzz) and just let er rip.
Theres something super-appealing about that approach, too, especially
in this era when everythings built and layered instrument-by-instrument
in ProTools and massaged to perfection note by note dig the slightly
tipsy pub vocals on Comin On Strong, or the almost-careening-out-of-control
vibe of Toughin It Out. It sounds like a rock and roll
band playing their songs live. It says something that its a novel
concept these days, but it kind of is.
The album careens between unrepentantly old-fashioned rockers that sound
like the best tracks on a Minneapolis record from 1987 (and believe me,
I mean that in the best of all possible ways this stuff is nostalgic
as hell, and it means to be) and boozy, whiskey-soaked country weepers.
For the rockers, I dig Scrutinizers, which whips between a
tense, curvy little verse and a damn catchy, celebratory chorus, and Comin
On Strong, which does that almost-funky thing that the Mats
did so damn well back in the day on stuff like Asking Me Lies.
And speaking of the Replacements, their ghost looms large over set-closer
Love To Rock, which evokes that band both in the stripped-down
chord structure and actual name-checks, managing to mention just about
every possible Minneapolis touchstone in the process.
Its the sad songs that, uh, say so much, though, and Mattson definitely
has the gift of writing a damn fine weeper, knowing just how to add the
right amount of twang and the right hitch in his voice to grab your gut
in that way, you know? I like opener Like A Plan, which is
optimistic and pretty and romantic with just a hint of depression lurking
below the surface. I like Paths, which sounds like the product
of a late-night singalong at the David Crosby mansion in 1969 and which
is bolstered by a nicely bitter lyric. But my favorite is probably the
funny, fucked-up break-up tune Hangin it couldnt
sound more world-weary and bitter.
Levels is the kind of record people dont make anymore. At one point,
they were a dime-a-dozen in Minneapolis, but now the art of making a damn
fine garage rock record with a bit of country twang is virtually lost.
Its nice to see that Ol Yeller are still defiantly kicking
ass in that way that people used to, sounding like a damn great live rock
and roll band cranking up terrific songs in some dark, smoke-filled studio
somewhere in the Iron Range that smells a little bit of old beer and a
little bit of man-sweat. And believe me, thats no bad thing - thats
the way it should be done.
Rich Mattson honors Paul Wellstone, Uptown Bar on Ol'
By Craig Planting, City Pages "Gimme Noise" 12/7/12
From 2001 until 2007, Americana roots-rockers Ol' Yeller put out five
studio albums (including 2004's Sounder which won a Minnesota Music Award)
and toured the country, especially Texas, over a dozen times. They became
a favorite of Twin Cites musicians and local music scenesters, but never
broke through to a larger audience. The band disintegrated when drummer
Keely Lane moved to Nashville to become a session musician and bassist
Dale Kallman dropped out of music all together. Singer, guitarist, producer,
and songwriter returned to the Iron Range where he converted a church
into a recording studio and led numerous bands including the hard-rocking
Tisdales, folk duo the Bitter Spills with Baby Grant Johnson and Junkboat
with his girlfriend, singer/songwriter Germaine Gemberling.
Now, after some gigs backing Gemberling, Ol' Yeller is back and ready
to take another shot. Last summer they convened at Mattson's studio and
recorded their new album, Levels, in six days. The album alternates between
folk-influenced acoustic tunes and barnstorming rockers. The moods are
often darker then Ol' Yeller's first incarnation and there aren't as many
obvious country influences. The album, like most of Mattson's music, rewards
"Rich reuniting with his old rhythm section gives the songs the feel
of a fastball caught in the pocket of a perfectly broken-in-glove,"
says Belfast Cowboy Terry Walsh. "Dale and Keely play like they're
ready to follow Rich down any path, ready to hoist him on their shoulders
if he falls, but he never stumbles."
The album's centerpiece is "Silver Bullet," a song about senator
Paul Wellstone, whose life ended near Eveleth, just down the road from
Mattson's recording studio.
"About five miles away as the crow flies/There lies the blood of
the teacher/You can believe your conspiracy/You'll never find the silver
The music is appropriately austere and sounds like a barely-updated murder
ballad from Harry Smith's Anthology of Folk Music. I asked Mattson about
the song via e-mail.
"It still freaks me out," he explains, "that Wellstone
met his end just five miles from my home. When I heard the news I immediately
thought 'conspiracy' and my mind hasn't changed. When the idea was mentioned
on TV, somebody said: 'they'll never find the silver bullet,' meaning
they'll never find the real evidence that he was murdered and that made
me sad. I thought of JFK, too, and how different the world could have
been if those two leaders and others like them hadn't perished before
their dreams came to fruition."
A memorial has been built at the crash site where you can walk on a boardwalk
and read plaques detailing Wellstone's accomplishments, political theories
and hopes for our future. Then the boardwalk leads you out to the actual
crash site and you realize that Wellstone, his wife and their companions
crashed in a swamp. The site is desolate and undeniably lonely. It's fitting
that an album about defiance, perseverance and living with hard choices
contains a tribute to Paul Wellstone.
There are two types of relationship songs on Levels. The first can be
categorized as the "I'm going to persevere despite you stomping on
my heart and abandoning me" songs. On "Hangin,'" a classic
kiss-off tune, Mattson opens a vein.
"Well, she gave me back my cat/Sent some papers and that was that/But
those papers are unread and they're still unsigned...I'm just sitting
in my lawn chair/Pretending that they're not there/Tearing at my heart/I
wanna tear them apart."
Mattson's unpretentious, lived-in baritone is reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot.
It has the same masculine wrestling with heartbreak edge, similar to Willie
Nelson singing: "And if I were the man you wanted/I wouldn't be the
man that I am."
I ask Mattson if he had any qualms about being so honest in his songs
about his past relationships. Did he ever worry about hurting anyone's
"I don't mean any harm to anyone," he replies, "and I never
specifically direct any song towards any one person. All of the names
and the stories have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent."
At the risk of sounding gossipy, I wonder if Mattson's ex-girlfriends
listen to his new music. Wouldn't they be tempted to try and decipher
whether he was singing about them? Even if his songs made them punch walls,
wouldn't their curiosity get the better of them?
The second type of relationship tune on Levels is the "I can't believe
I've found a new love and I better not mess this one up" songs.
On "Comin' on Strong," an all-out rocker, Mattson sings: "I
ate the forbidden fruit, it tastes just like they say/So sweet and succulent,
but it isn't worth the price you pay/I looked around and I didn't see
a soul in sight/Until you showed up, illuminated in a holy light."
Despite what Mattson says, it's hard not to assume that this song is about
Gemberling. On "Tired of Feeling Good," a duet near the end
of the album, Mattson and Gemberling harmonize beautifully as they sing:
"That same moon hangs over Superior/And I'm thinking of someone tonight/Someone
to love me tender/Someone to treat me nice/Someone who knows direction
in this neck of the woods." Mattson's perseverance and hard choices
appear to have paid-off.
The last song on Levels, "Love to Rock," details Ol' Yeller's
past as well as their present. It's one last show of defiance as Mattson,
Lane and Kallman continue to chase their dreams despite their albums selling
many fewer copies than Purple Rain. They're back and having too much fun
to consider trading in their brand of Northwoods rock and roll for straight
"We always had to jam down in the basement/From the land of Dylan
to the home of the Replacements/We even got to party with Bob Stinson/Pool
together two bucks for a pack of Winstons/Took forever to get a show at
the Uptown/Call Maggie every day and slam the phone down."
"Maggie" is Maggie MacPherson, the former booking agent of the
Uptown Bar and the song sums up why it's such a drag that there's a big,
clean, excessively-lit Apple store where the Uptown Bar used to be. The
Uptown's dirty checkerboard floor, the aging rockers around the bar, the
gutter punks, the waitresses smoking and the good, great and terrible
bands that played there all are missed.
"Love to Rock" continues with: "But, we never really got
to the next level, friends/Keep making records and it never ends/Because
here I go, I'll sing this new one for you/And when it's good, oh boy,
it's pure euphoria/The gift just keeps on giving, it's pure magic/Let's
hope it ends up sweet instead of tragic."
I ask Mattson how he stays true to his dreams. "I just love what
I do," he says. "I've never managed to have kids, so I've never
had to grow up and quit following the dream. I love playing music, recording
bands and being around music people. I do have other interests, but I'm
definitely an oddball up where I live. My boat is a canoe that I paid
$100 for and I don't want anything else. I've worn the same shoes for
ten years and I've had the same haircut since 1986. I plant a garden,
heat with wood and think of my life as a game of 'who can spend the least
amount of money while leading the richest lifestyle.' It's not for everyone,
but I sure as hell enjoy it."
Ol' Yeller is as authentic as a wet, crumpled dollar next to a whiskey
sour and Rich Mattson is Minnesota's cross between John Fogerty, Johnny
Cash and Joe Strummer. If there's any concern, it's that there aren't
any of Ol' Yeller's Waylon Jennings-influenced, Outlaw Country tunes on
Levels. Perhaps Mattson will feel obliged to write one for their next
In the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE
from 6/24/05: Ol' Yeller "Nuzzle" was listed as one of the top
10 local cd's of the decade (so far)
City Pages' A LIST props for SMA
Since releasing the first Glenrustles
album in 1999 [1995 actually], SMA has been not-so-quietly releasing some
of the finest roots-smoked rock and roll this side of New West Records
or Yep Rock. This afternoon/evening amidst the hallowed Know Name stacks,
the SMA stable trots out all its thouroughbreds--including big dogs Ol'
Yeller, as wel as Kingdom of Ghosts, Blame and the Gleam, whose the Chisago
County EP is, along with The Current, SMA, Melodious Owl, and quite a
few others, proof positive that there is something very special a-crackling
at the moment in this magical little arts-and-music prairie burg we call
Fufkin.com Best of 2004
OL' YELLER - Sounder (SMA Records) This
alt-country/roots-rock band has been quietly releasing some very fine
records that should appeal to Neil Young and Crazy Horse fans
with Blue Mountain loyalists.
City Pages (Minneapolis) CD REVIEW:
Understanding Minnesota rock 'n' roll means wrapping your brain around
the possibility that our finest singer could be found, on a Fourth of
July weekend, in an Iron Range bar one block from the largest hockey stick
in the world, covering Modern English's "I Melt with You." Rich
Mattson isn't modern or English enough to deny a plastered mob its nostalgia.
Nostalgia is one of his great subjects, after all, along with dreams of
returning northward for good, chasing fireflies and raising chickens far
from the reach of corporate capitalism. He's so unpretentious that when
his great band the Glenrustles broke up, he lifted a new name out of a
goofball pun on classic canine lit (Ol' Yeller as in "old guy who
yells") and now does the same with the group's fourth album, Sounder
(as in "emitter of sounds"). The guy's allegiance to the rural
and the working class is so natural, he makes Fogerty look like a poseur.
But Mattson's gentle voice isn't easy to write for, and he knows it. With
more character than Stipe, less texture than Westerberg, his singing is
transcendent among harmonies, as on the lush jangle of "Nightstand,"
an ode to believing in bands. The song sounds like Wilco's best Woody
Guthrie rewrite, in part because Mattson has a new bassist, Greg McAloon,
and guitarist, Andy Schultz--and Schultz can really sing. "I don't
understand what you're talking about/But I know that the feeling is right,"
Mattson croons, and you realize he's reading your mind.
Elsewhere, the craftsman in him avoids sacrificing the merely likable
to worry about astonishing anyone. When his voice hits that perfect Blue
Öyster Cult register, below which guitar lines can safely churn,
it's a pleasant place to visit. He's rocking harder now, with a couple
of cuts slipping in under the two-and-a-half-minute mark (the punky "13th
Grade" and "Reward"--bonus nostalgia and anti-capitalism,
respectively). Drummer Keely Lane, always the Big Ben of thwack , comes
to the fore of Mattson's production this time. But the highlights are
quiet departures, like the strummy country of "Drawing Blanks,"
a blues for the inarticulate, which sounds like Valet's take on the Auteurs.
More modern, more English, in other words: Can synthesizers be far behind?
Peter S. Scholtes VOL 25 #1239 . PUBLISHED
Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN:
Ol' Yeller 's Rich Mattson is one of my favorite singer-songwriters in
town, but trying to get him to explain his songs is never easy. Thank
goodness he has new OY bassist Greg McAloon (who actually played in an
early version of the Yeller gang) to sum up the band's latest CD, "Sounder,"
which it's promoting with a release party tonight at the Turf Club.
"Greg said, 'It's sort of a concept album about rock 'n' roll and
all that goes with playing in a band,' and I guess I buy that," Mattson
Coming just a year after the band's great "Penance" album (oh,
the joy of owning your own studio), "Sounder" starts with a
road song, "Driving Around in Circles," and includes other gems
such as the songwriter's tale "Ignoring the Muse." Best of all,
"Bait and Switch" alternates between slow verses on a band struggling
to make it and more up-tempo verses where things go better.
With McAloon and newly added second guitarist Andy Schultz , the new Ol'
Yeller sounds fuller and a tad grittier. Comparisons to Son Volt are more
apt than ever now with the two-guitar attack and Mattson's gravelly, warm
Said Mattson, "We're having a lot of fun. And having Andy on guitar
takes some pressure off me."
When he's not recording his band, Mattson has been playing host to the
likes of Anchorhead and Lifestyle of Wigs at his studio. Look for albums
by them soon.
Chris Riemenschneider, September 3,
New Ol' Yeller
Rich Mattson did a couple spread-eagle
guitar jumps at the Turf Club last Friday, which should tell you a little
something about Ol' Yeller's new four-piece lineup compares to the beloved
trio of old. The band now features a second guitarist, Andy Schultz (of
Betty Drake) and a new bassist in Mattson's old Glenrustles mate Greg
McAloon. It's a heavier, rowdier Yeller, but the songs still run the show.
--Chris Riemenschneider, April 16 2004
Ripsaw News, Duluth MN
Iron Range native Rich Mattson has really made a name for himself as one
of today's most promising songwriters. Rich is a hardworking creative
prodigy who somehow manages to avoid the spotlight. Despite numerous attempts
to catch the attention of major labels; after 12 years and four critically-acclaimed
albums with his first group, Minneapolis' beloved mainstay the Glenrustles,
he decided to focus his efforts on a new project with some new collaborators.
Enter Ol' Yeller.
Nuzzle is Ol' Yeller's sophomore set, and nothing in the years
of rejections has changed Mattson's determination of winning over legions
of fans with his honest lyrics and a trademark sound that generally is
mistaken as "alt country." Ol' Yeller is nowhere near that genre, but
its sound borders on it much as the Byrds did with their jangly guitar
Nuzzle is a testament to the DIY aesthetic of surviving as musicians
tour to the tune of little fans and less money. The opening track, "Out
There," is a tribute to choochtown proprietor Ed Hamell, whose steadfast
life on the road as Hamell On Trial has made him a modern-day pioneer.
The majority of the other songs depict scenes from Ol' Yeller's touring
hardships and livin'-in-a-tour-van blues.
"Burn" is a terrific testament about cheating that recalls Damn the
Torpedoes-era Petty with pure rootsy-Americana rock. "Sulpher" tells
an interesting tale about a Louisiana waitress with a black eye. This
is true Americana beauty set at a Waffle House. "Expecting To Die" is
an irresistable gem with enough lyrical hooks to ensure radio-friendly
status. The lyrical content is traditional break-up musings ("It's a heartache/It's
a waste of time/Payin' so much to go nowhere"), but this song has definite
potential for the mass exposure Rich Mattson has been searching for ever
since he was turned on to the sounds of his heroes, the Replacements.
If you yearn for the days when Paul Westerberg ruled the Minneapolis scene,
or just need some classic rock 'n' roll to provide the soundtrack to all
tomorrow's cross-country treks, Nuzzle is an ideal choice. Although
we've come to expect a lot from Rich Mattson throughout the years, he
is not one to let down.
--Matthew R. Perrine
March 20, 2002
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Ol Yeller are new dogs of the road
Ol' Yeller's second CD, "Nuzzle," is a great throwback to what it used
to be like playing in a rock band. And that's not just because the music
recalls many classic, chord-driven groups, from the Byrds to Green on
Red to Camper Van Beethoven (thanks to frontman Rich Mattson's throaty,
David Lowery-like voice).
Ol' Yeller is one local band that's putting its faith in the music, and
it shows. Mattson, drummer Keely Lane, and bassist Dale Kallman dont have
day jobs. Two of them live together, in a northeast Minneapolis house
where the garage serves as a studio. Mattson makes some money producing
other bands there. Otherwise, he and the group rely on gigs, many of which
are on the road.
"I'm not going to lie and say we're living the high life," said Mattson,
34, an Iron Range native. "We sleep on a lot of people's floors and spend
a lot of time just getting by. But I dont think I'd want it any other
way, at least while I'm still young."
Besides demonstrating how tight such a lifestyle can make a band, "Nuzzle"
is full of the kind of free-spirited, motion-filled songwriting that comes
from the road, including the Waffle House-baked "Sulpher" and the warm
lament "Summer of Madness." The disc opener, "Out There," is a tribute
to one of the hardest-touring musicians ever, upstate New York's Ed Hamell
(Hamell On Trial), whose career was derailed in a recent car accident.
"Don't you ever think he wonders, 'What am I doing here?'" Mattson muses
Ol' Yeller seems to know exactly what they're doing out there: After tonight's
release party at the Turf Club with Terry Eason and Duluth's Giljunko,
the band kicks off a Midwest tour that ends at Austin's South By Southwest
Conference in mid-March.
Friday, February 15, 2002
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Rich music like "Nuzzle" right under your nose
"Don't you know I'm just a poet, honey; I write songs and hang out with
flunkies/There's too many dreams to remember; all of them [live in the
burning embers]," sings Rich Mattson on Minneapolis roots-rockers Ol'
Yeller's sophomore long-player. As that song ("Under the Tree") suggests,
the trio (Mattson, drummer Keely Lane and bassist/keyboardist/background
vocalist Dale Kallman) spent much of last year touring the country, playing
shows to crowds of various sizes and varying enthusiasms, and writing
songs about it.
Lucky for us that Ol' Yeller is doing it, for one, and that we're not;
Paul Westerberg called such emotional tourism of starving artists "suicane
gratification." Still, while that experience may have left Mattson high
and dry in the straight-and-narrow world, it has also accounted for his
richest and most varied batch of songs to date.
The record kicks off with the fully loaded rocker "Out There," a tribute
to road warrior Ed Hamell (Hamell On Trial) and all lost touring souls,
and closes with the powerful ballad "You Never Know," a kiss-off to a
woman-gone-wrong. In between are 10 mini-anthems to turning points, crossroads
"Burn" is about a barfly's wandering eye and cheatin' heart, "Expecting
to Die" is a lilting breakup song, and "Passed Ambition" is a melancholy
self-exam about the fruits and arrows of the artistic life. "I Can't Hang!"
is the set's highlight, a raging Kinks-ish put-down of a self-centered
date sung with an open-hearted Everyman yowl. That Everyman quality-so
endearing in his songwriting-is inherent to Mattson's singing voice as
well, sometimes to the point where it doesn't rise above the pack of less-talented
songwriters traveling the alt-country back roads.
Still, when Mattson sings, "Leave it to travel to make you feel so small/Halfway
'cross the country it's the same damn strip mall/I see why you never leave
the house/Everything you need's a click away on your mouse," he does so
with the forlorn realization that he's part of a dying breed that knows
things like the harmonica solo that follows-and bands like Ol' Yeller-can't
be had in computers and convenience stores.
--Jim Walsh Friday, Feb. 15, 2002
Best of the Twin Cities
Best Songwriter-Rich Mattson
The late Glenrustles piled great line atop great line like coats on a
bed at a party, but frontman Rich Mattson always seemed ready to flop
down on them anyway. It wasn't that his songwriting lacked wit or passion,
just that his spiritual weariness ran so deep that for 12 years he seemed
perilously close to becoming a mellower, crustier Paul Westerberg-and
we have plenty of those already. Perhaps what makes him a gentle rocker,
though, also makes him a gifted talker. The self-titled debut of his new
band Ol' Yeller (on SMA Records) hardly sounds resigned or pat: Mattson
is writing his purest and prettiest pop yet, and the singer-guitarists
"To Thine Own Self" feels like sunshine and a knock-knock joke before
breakfast. "I once had a woman who'd never be my wife," he croons. "I
couldn't live without her/But here I am alive." The sound is so open,
simple, and rich, it recalls Tom Petty in his freefalling years. Just
keep Jeff Lynne away from the premises.
May 2, 2001
New York Press
Music: Crispin Sartwell
Ol' Yeller is a hell of a band, and Ol' Yeller (SMA; P.O. Box 583183,
Minneapolis, MN 55458) is a hell of an album. If they're an alt-country
act then they're the best alt-country act I've heard in a while. Finding
a groove somewhere between the Violent Femmes and the Byrds (see: I spelled
it right!) they have a variety of modes, from a loping Dead-type pace to
extremely focused alternative rock. They play beautifully, and despite the
fact that one of the songs is called "You Can't Sing!" they sing beautifully
I can see a couple of these songs as actual rock radio hits, especially
the varied-but-coherent "Haven't Tried Much". In fact, if this band doesn't
make it big, I'm gonna kick some motherfucking honky record company radio
programming executive fat fucked-up ass.
7/19/01-Vol.14, Iss. 17
The Portland Phoenix
Sunday, April 15: Man's Best Friend
The name Ol' Yeller may conjure up repressed images of the loveable golden
canine that dies in the classic Disney film's final scene, ripping at the
hearts of many young children, but it is also the name of a band from Minneapolis,
an offspring of the Glenrustles who roamed around the twin cities for twelve
years. Ol' Yeller like to think they capture "the best parts of a CCR, Buffalo
Springfield, Byrds, and Rolling Stones concert," but only if it took place
in a barn. Playing music with a rootsy, folky, mid-western style, Ol' Yeller
will be at the Free Street Taverna...
Time Out New York
April 12-19, 2001
Minneapolis quartet Ol' Yeller is the latest in a long line of worthy roots-rock
acts from the Twin Cities. The band's self-titled debut (on SMA Records)
is packed with pleading harmonies and sharp strumming...
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
Gig of the week: Ol' Yeller's fetching CD-release party at the
The highly anticipated Ol' Yeller CD-Release party will happen at the Turf
Club tonight. The band's self-titled debut is an honest dose of rootsy sounds
that thrive against a strong backdrop guaranteed not to disappoint roots-rock
fans. Ol' Yeller has just finished up a stint at New York's Mercury Lounge,
and this is their first local gig since their return last month. Unfortunately,
ace guitar player Randy Casey has parted ways with the group so he can focus
on his solo work. Now a trio-lead guitarist/singer and Glenrustle Rich Mattson,
bassist Dale Kallman and drummer Keely Lane-Ol' Yeller still gets my vote
as best local band from the past year.
Friday, May 4, 2001
No Depression Sept./Oct. 2001
Ol' Yeller (self titled)
What does Ol' Yeller frontman Rich Mattson know about hard-hitting country
rock? Well, a lot. For over a decade, Mattson fronted the Glenrustles, one
of the toughest roots-rock bands in the Twin Cities. With Ol' Yeller, though
Mattson tends to keep some of that gritty, classic rock sound, everything
feels like a much mellower, more thoughtful endeavor.
The pop sensibility of guitar ace Randy
Casey (who has since parted ways with the band) makes for a nice match
with Mattson's piercing guitar and gravely growl. The band has a real
knack for pretty harmonies ("Piece Of Work" and "To Thine Own Self"),
country-soaked toe tappers ("The Denial Song") and solid, moving tunes
("Follow The Heart").
Recording at Mattson's Flowerpot studio,
Ol' Yeller got a little help from pedal steel ace Eric Heywood and their
solid rhythm section of Keely Lane (Trailer Trash) and Dale Kallman. Their
self-titled debut is quality Americana for anyone who likes a glass of
wine with their meat and potatoes.
the entire Glenrustles press kit on our old Glenrustles site
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