Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jayhawks co-founder Mark Olson returns to Northampton's Iron Horse this Saturday, September 25th with a fresh new album, Many Colored Kite, just out on Rykodisc.

Maybe the recent spate of Jayhawks reunions/reissues had an effect, but Mark Olson is rocking again. In 2008 Mark and Gary Louris got together and recorded an album Ready For The Flood, and toured the world extensively after its release for the better part of 2009.

The Minneapolitan Californian's first solo album, 2007's The Salvation Blues (subtitled, no kidding, A two-year journey through the heart of loss and redemption, in words and music), was at heart a depressed country album, despite avowed hopefulness and humanism, conceived largely in Europe as Olson got over a breakup with Victoria Williams—his partner in the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers.

Many Colored Kite instantly feels more pop, its default guitar style Byrdsian curlicue rather than twang, with indie-folk diva Jolie Holland harmonizing on the cheekily corny "Little Bird of Freedom" amid drums and jangle. Olson sounds less like he's trying to convince himself that the world is good and salvageable and more like he's sharing the news. Which makes the wobbling plainness of his singing—the lower of two reeds from his Jayhawks days—more disarming as he layers strings and backup vocals (mostly Norwegian partner Ingunn Ringvold) into a lush Western soft rock Blitzen Trapper would back. In addition to Ringvold’s soaring, ethereal harmonies, the core group for this wide-eyed, uplifting album includes Neal Casal andDanny Frankel. It’s produced and engineered by Beau Raymond who’s worked with Devendra Banhart, Little Joy, and of course Mark Olson and Gary Louris. 

All you could ask for, really, is tunes as memorable as his presence. Songs such as the spiritual-environmentalist "Kingsnake," and the road story "Wind and Rain" are so prettified, they're in soft-focus: It takes Olson to humanize them, his voice giving each track a ticker. Which might be why the strongest performance here is the absurdly awed-by-love "Morning Dove"—solo acoustic after all.  “No Time to Live Without Her,” features ’70s UK folk singer Vashti Bunyan.  - Excerpted from Minneapolis City Pages, Peter Scholtes

Openers Breathe Owl Breathe are three friends from the Great Lakes: a printmaker marathon runner, a cellist calligrapher, and a geographer. Magic Central, the band’s latest creation is literally a breath of fresh air in the modern music world with their simplistic yet invigorating compositions.

Mark Olson plus Breathe Owl Breathe appear at the Iron Horse on Saturday, September 25th at 7PM. Tickets are available at the Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686 and online at IHEG.com

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