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October 2004

Renee Olstead
Renee Olstead
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Renee Olstead was five years old when she purchased her first album. It was a Celine Dion disc. In the decade since (yes, the adorable ginger-haired Texan, best known for her recurring role on the sitcom Still Standing, is now only 15), her taste has improved considerably. Between TV episodes, Olstead, who sounds at least twice her age (ironically, she recently filled a supporting role in the Jennifer Garner hit 13 Going on 30) and has a remarkably mature passion for standards that predate her by decades, liked to sit in with a local swing band, eventually cutting a demo CD of her favorite tracks. That disc found its way to David Foster, who led Olstead to Reprise. Result? A superbly rendered, self-titled, Foster-produced album that sounds as if Olstead has studied phrasing from Joanie Sommers and showmanship from Ann-Margret. She handles "Summertime" with amazingly adult adroitness, teams with Chris Botti for a smashing "Someone to Watch Over Me," goes to town with Carol Welsman for a boisterous "On a Slow Boat to China" and has tremendous fun with Peter Cincotti on Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do." Though it is a dazzling debut, suggesting the first step in a major musical career, Olstead knows her age is likely to be held against her. "Some people may not take me seriously," she says, "but I can't let that stop me. This is music that belongs to all of us."

Originally published in October 2004
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