Oakland’s Toby Oler may have played banjo for Bay Area country band TV Mike and the Scarecrowes and written traditional bluegrass for The Nashville Knives, but his brilliant new solo release, OVTOV, is far from traditional.

Oler wrote all eight songs on OVTOV, but brought in musicians from a variety of Bay Area bands to help record them, including Elliott Peck and Connor O’Sullivan of Dem Suite, Michael James Tapscott of Odawas, and Matt Nelson of tUnE-yArDs. He described the process as a musical version of “Stone Soup,” where Oler brought the songs (the pot) and let his fellow musicians put their own spin on things (the ingredients and spices).

On each track, Oler and his diverse team of musicians never manage to fall into a specific genre, which is a good thing. They are free to experiment and take chances at every turn, while managing to produce music that isn’t just listenable, but is pretty damn catchy. Below, you can stream three songs that show the range of Oler’s great songwriting on OVTOV.

“Tracks” is probably the most traditional song, with Michael James Tapscott taking care of the vocals and Matt Nelson’s sax work adding a nice touch.

“Temescal Pool” takes you on a goofy homemade hip-hop ride through the streets of Oakland. Nothing against the rhymes, but the beat and layers of sound are the highlights here.

Finally, “Big Palms Family Restaurant” starts off sounding like it may be your typical folk song about a family restaurant, but almost immediately the video game-esque beeps remind you that OVTOV is anything but typical. Elliott Peck provides gorgeous vocals and Matt Nelson’s sax again brings a unique element.

You can stream the rest of the album on Oler’s Bandcamp page, where there is also a link to download the album for free. Listen to it from start to finish – you won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately, Oler has no plans to bring OVTOV to a live setting, and he is no longer playing banjo with TV Mike. He is currently writing bluegrass songs for The Nashville Knives in addition to doing production work in the Bay Area.

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