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WITF Music: Olds and the Absolution

  • Joe Ulrich

 Joe Ulrich / WITF

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“I like driving my commute,” says Heath Hardin. He and Claudia Harrison make up the Lancaster-based due Olds and the Absolution. “I’m on roads where I’m the only one for miles and I get to watch farmers rising early and working the fields and stuff like that. And that to me is…pacifying in a way. I’m very affected by that landscape. The Pennyslvania landscape is just absolutely gorgeous. And it has a certain feel to it, like all of those Andrew Wyeth paintings. It’s that feeling of the fall colors.”

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Heath is a high school English teacher and the songs he writes are a mixture of personal and fictional narratives, with strands of Lancaster County binding them together. Both he and Claudia are from the area and its been important to the music and their lives.

Heath shoots videos of the Lancaster landscape on his phone and puts his music to it. But the videos  are more of a visual background for his music. It’s as though you were listening to Olds and the Absolution while driving through the Lancaster County countryside. And the videos aren’t meant to be exciting or fast-paced.

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“I think that may deter some people from watching because it seems like, man, this is the slowest thing I’ve ever watched, but that’s exactly kind of what I’m trying to get at it; slow down. I really feel a lot of comfort in that slow place. Claudia’s met me there.”

“Well that’s good for me,” says Claudia. “Because a lot of my life is at a very fast pace. So when I sit down and play with Heath a lot of times I’m gonna start on a note and I don’t have to change for a long time. I can just stay on that note and feel it and see how I can change the tone of it. There’s no need to fill the songs with notes. They can just have a lot of space in them.”

“We’re trying to create a mood for sure,” Heath adds.

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Before Olds and the Absolution, Heath had written and recorded under the name Olds Sleeper.

“I’m a fan of drag racing” he says. “My dad used to drag race a little bit in Cecil County, Maryland. An Olds Sleeper is an Oldsmobile car with an engine that you’re not aware of. It looks like a very sedate family car but underneath there’s this big engine that’ll blow you away. So I always felt like I didn’t really look like the part of a person writing these songs. They were just kinda coming out of me so it kind of fit. It stuck. And then it was shortened to Olds. Then one of our friends came to see us play and he suggested Olds and the Absolution for the way that Claudia can kinda take you on a little journey with her violin. Kind of make you disappear for a little bit.”

Heath and Claudia recently released a pay-what-you-want album recorded at the Sugar Tank in Lancaster.

A sleepy car with a big engine and absolution, the release of obligation or guilt. Seems like a good combination for a drive through the Lancaster countryside and maybe the right way to listen to Olds and Absolution.

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