Guitarist thrives on daredevil blues
The Mitch Raymond Trio will play at 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 7, at The Cabin, 825 Main St. For information, visit www.facebook.com/mitchraymondtrio.
Salt Lake City-based guitarist Mitch Olson considers himself a daredevil when it comes to playing the blues.
“You can find me in between the blues-based rock of British bravado rock bands and Evel Knievel,” Olson said. “I like to play with people and feel that synergy where you are on the edge of crashing, because it’s all improvised and we can make things up as we go.”
Park City will get the chance to see Olson play in his new outing, The Mitch Raymond Trio, at 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 7, at The Cabin, 825 Main St.
Olson’s bandmates include bassist James Trevino, who plays with Talia Keys and Tony Holiday, and drummer Kevin Gardiner, who is known for his work in the soul/blues band Plumb Stickie with Kasey Coyle, who has played with Park City’s Dr. Bob Band.
“They are seasoned jam players,” Olson said of this bandmates. “They can take anything you throw at them and make it sound good.
“I have tried other musicians, but it always settles back with these two,” he said. “We work once a week at the Royal bar and nightclub in Salt Lake, and that keeps us in touch with each other. So we don’t have to do a lot of extra work to keep the music together.”
Olson started working out the concept of the Mitch Raymond Trio a year ago.
“I came up with the name, ‘Mitch Raymond Trio’ because Raymond is my middle name,” he said. “I thought of calling it the Mitchell Ray Trio, but I didn’t want to encroach on the Ray of (the late) Stevie Ray Vaughan. And Mitch Olson Trio sounded a little (lame).”
Once he settled on the band’s name, Olson — who played guitar for more than 20 years in Salt Lake’s Harry Lee and The Back Alley Blues Band — contacted some of his local musician friends and took some home-recorded demos to them.
After many words of encouragement from his peers, Olson decided to form the band.
“This is me coming out of The Back Alley Blues Band,” he said. “It’s also me going back to being in my own band. And I decided to go out and perform as myself in the style I like to play, which is the interpretation of the blues after 30 years. We just want to play blues in clubs and festivals around town.”
TV had a lot to do with influencing Olson to pick up a guitar.
“When I was a kid Elvis Presley and a lot of country musicians, including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and other artists, were always on television,” he said. “I always loved Elvis’ style of rock and roll. As I got older, of course, in the ‘70s and ‘80s I was into Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.
“All those rock bands’ music is based in American blues,” Olson said. “They just reinterpret the style and feed them back to us. In fact, it wasn’t until I heard ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ by B.B. King that I realized half of Pink Floyd’s album “Dark Side of the Moon” was a big long version of ‘The Thrill Is Gone.’”
Olson was 19 when he saw his first blues concert.
“A coworker of mine said I needed to see John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers,” he said. “So I saw them at the University of Utah.”
The opening act was a band called the Tempo Timers.
“I thought they were a national act, but, nope, they were a local band,” Olson said. “So I started to follow them around like a puppy, to the point where I worked with the drummer for 20 years at a print shop.”
With that connection, Olson started to play music locally.
“The problem was I always got into trouble by pushing the limits of the blues style,” he said. “I was a showoff, and I would jump up and bend the notes a little too far.”
The Mitch Raymond Trio concert at the Cabin will feature Olson playing the blues the way he wants to play them.
“I do like to play blues classics and reinterpret them,” he said. “When I played in the Back Alley Blues Band with (harmonica player) Mike Ricks, our mantra was not to ‘repaint the Mona Lisa,’ because there is no reason to. However, we would use the same subject matter and create something we could call our own.”
That’s how Olson feels with his new trio.
“I have written a few original songs, but when you talk the blues, what will you really say that is original?” He said. “I mean, everybody from Muddy Waters to Buddy Guy wrote songs for 60 years, so I play their songs in a way that allows me to create. They give me a basis, so I don’t try to write a bunch of songs with ‘mama done told me’ lyrics.”
And there’s nothing like finding the groove when the music and playing all come together.
“It’s all worth it when you can land without crashing and ragdolling like Evel Knievel,” Olson said. “These are the times that my friend calls ‘Hoodoo moments.’ And this is always something I wanted to do.”