ol yeller


Album Review
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 band’s brand-new reunion album. So, let’s 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. It’s not always mind-blowing, but you know you’re 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 he’s 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?
Hardly any.
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 that’s it. That’s what he does in his other band, The Tisdales; in his other band, Junkboat; and in whatever else he’s doing on any particular day. This guy’s not writing prog-rock epics any time soon. He’s 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 this release.
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 doesn’t like to beg or borrow, and if he can’t 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 isn’t 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 ain’t no kid/I ain’t 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 G’s in them. This is blue-collar stuff, but it’s not a pose.
If you’re into rock ‘n’ roll and you have yet to discover one of the best tunesmiths in Minnesota history, there’s no reason you can’t 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 Young’s 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 Tupelo’s 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 he’s 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 you’re halfway there, if you’ve 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 that’s your bag – and it should be, dammit, you’re from the Midwest – you’ll love it.
There ain’t 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. There’s something super-appealing about that approach, too, especially in this era when everything’s 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 it’s 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.
It’s 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 couldn’t sound more world-weary and bitter.
Levels is the kind of record people don’t 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. It’s 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, that’s no bad thing - that’s the way it should be done.

Rich Mattson honors Paul Wellstone, Uptown Bar on Ol' Yeller's Levels
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 repeat listening.
"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 bullet."
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 feelings?
"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 jobs.
"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 album.


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 Records showcase:

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 Oz.

--Jim Walsh

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 … along with Blue Mountain loyalists.

-Eric Sorenson

City Pages (Minneapolis) CD REVIEW:

Ol' Yeller
SMA Records
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 9/1/04

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 said.
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 voice.
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, 2004


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

Music Reviews

Ol' Yeller-Nuzzle

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 sound.

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 in it.

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.

-Chris Riemenschneider
Friday, February 15, 2002

St. Paul Pioneer Press
Pop Music

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 and ditches.

"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

Farm Report

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 too.

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 Turf
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.

--Amy Carlson

View the entire Glenrustles press kit on our old Glenrustles site

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