Blues singer/guitarist Larry McCray provides vocals and/or guitar work on eight of the eleven tracks on Olivia. His guitar work is muscular and yet never threatens to dominate, and his vocals remind the listener of a young B.B. King. Tucci leans heavily on his friend, and McCray comes through him, making for some memorable moments.
The lead-off track, “High Roller,” features McCray on guitar and vocals, boasting that he is a “high roller in a low down dirty game.” The guitar is good and greasy with a sinister undertone, and the band Tucci falls in line with solid playing.
The title track finds Steve Tucci sharing guitar duties with Ira Stanley, who provides some searing slide lines. Sax player Shawn Murphy takes the mic for the lead vocal, and Donnie Richards elevates the whole thing with some excellent Hammond B3 work.
McCray is back at the helm for “I Don’t Need It.” Although all the songs on Olivia are Tucci originals this track feels like something much older and familiar, and that’s a good thing. “Overtaxed Blues” is the only thing on the record that feels uninspired, probably in part because the public is exhausted by the rancor and stagnation coming out of Washington for the past few years.
“Play by The Rules” showcases the guitar work of Dan Toler, in one of his last recorded outings. Toler and Tucci carry the number on the strength of their fretwork, making for a fitting farewell to the late guitarist. McCray returns on “You Hurt Me,” with a warning for his woman. In his best wounded-blues vocal he declares, “You hurt me, girl you better do right.” Dan Ryan offers a solid turn on piano and Tucci’s guitar work is exemplary.
“Hey Florida” is a twin lead guitar number in classic southern rock tradition circa Eat a Peach. The album closes out with a twelve-minute jam band song “Third Eye.” Everyone gets to bring something to the party on this one and it is great fun.
The record as a whole is a solid effort, and thoroughly entertaining. All of this is made possible by the excellent songwriting of Steve Tucci. For a band seeking to reinvent themselves Tucci seems to have landed on its feet.