They're baaaack! Ol' Yeller returns, from hiatus, not from the dead. Rarely does a band at their level return from hiatus..you know, a band that (since Y2k) managed to tour the country a couple-dozen or so times over the course of 4 years and release 5 full-length albums to high critical and inter- national praise strictly on their own skills, musicianship, and tenacity. A band that was too real for their own good. Roots-rock? Country? Ameri-cana? The proverbial conundrum of labels. "Muttonchop Rock" was a good one from Peter Sholtes of City Pages. "Northern Rock" was another one floating around and sort of sticking.
Ol’ Yeller is the songs of Rich Mattson. Mr. Ol’ Yeller himself began writing songs in 1981 at the age of 14 and as his website bio will profess, “..he had such a good time doing it that he still does it to- day.” Some might say Rich is a bit of a control freak. I think closer to the truth is that he loves doing what he does and when the shit hits the fan, there is only one person to blame. Some time around 1991 Mattson started running a recording studio which evolved into the present day Sparta Sound, located on the Iron Range of Minnesota just a stone’s throw away from an abandoned iron ore pit.
His relocation and return to his roots after 18 years of rocking the ever-loving shit out of the twin cities music scene was for reasons of personal concern, but if you listen to his songs, you find out pretty much everything. You get the keys anyway. He’s got some hellacious stories if you get him going. In the 4 years without Ol’ Yeller as an active creative entity Mattson played around with folk music, playing covers in snowmobiler bars, getting loud and stoopid with the retro rock of the Tisdales (who released 3 stellar albums) and writing songs with his new love, Germaine Gemberling. Back in 2004, returning bass player Dale Kallman recoiled in horror when he stuck his bullshit detector a little too deep into the abyss of music business quagmire and hung it up. He was soon to find that not having a four-stringed, low singing instrument in his hands to express himself with was boring as hell. He soon realized that this was as they say, “about the muuusic.”
The smiling and eternally-youthful drummer Keely Lane is back from Nashville, where he picked up gigs with some bigtime country acts (Andy Griggs, Jessica Lee Mayfield, etc..) for a few years until the “red state blues” finally sent him packing for his beloved Minnesota. An impromptu reunion show and a recording session backing up Germaine Gemberling got the band talking about “doing some more stuff,” and of course, Mattson had the songs. In the summer of 2012 the three original members of Ol’ Yeller got together for 6 days at Sparta Sound and recorded LEVELS, the new album. Oh yeah, they rehearsed the songs..IN THEIR MINDS. It’s like adding water with these guys. Just fire up the machines, Ol’ Yeller doesn’t miss a beat. LEVELS is living proof.