Mark Olson is,perhaps, best known for being the co-founder [in 1985] of the superb country-rock band The Jayhawks. One the band's principal songwriters, Mark remained with The Jayhawks until 1995. He subsequently rejoined the band in 2009 but left again in 2012.
Mark now lives in Joshua Tree ,California with his Norwegian wife, and musical partner, Ingunn Ringvold. Although this new album is credited to Mark alone, it is clearly a joint effort with Ingunn as she co-wrote [with Mark] all but two of the ten songs and contributes,not only vocals , but also her distinctive keyboards [Mellotron and Chamberlin] as well as Armenian Qanon [ a zither-like stringed instrument]. Mark plays guitar [electric and acoustic] whilst drums and bass are provided by guest musicians Danny Frankel [formerly of Lou Reed's band] and Lewis Keller respectively.
The musical partnership of Mark and Ingunn has produced a glorious-sounding album of songs about love and "the beautiful outdoors". The album has a delightful chamber-pop feel to it, courtesy of the string arrangements from Ingunn's Mellotron ,which recalls great baroque-pop songs such as The Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee" or The Zombies' "She's Not There".
The album gets off to a cracking start with "Dear Elisabeth" which will delight Jayhawks fans with Mark's trademark vocal phrasings. Lyrically,the scene is set for the rest of the album ,with a refrain of "Where are the yellow hummingbird flowers" and a melodious flute-like Mellotron solo.
I don't know whether it's intentional or not but "Time of Love" has the feel of Love's 1967 psychedelic classic "Forever Changes" with its woozy electric guitar solo and elaborate string arrangement.
The title track is a delightful psych -folk paean to the "Spokeswoman of the Bright Sun" which puts me in mind of the Incredible String Band ,with lyrics referencing "dreaming mountain stream" and "myrtle tree, purple stone".
"Seminole Valley Tea Sippers Society" [great title] also summons up the sunshine-pop sounds of the mid- 1960's with its baroque harpsichord and plucked strings , invoking the spirit of bands like The Association and Harper's Bizarre ,as does the subsequent "You Are All" with its "candy sand castles" in a "lollipop sky". I can't quite see the Jayhawks performing this one!
"Gravity Loss" written by Mark alone describes, presumably autobiographically, the feeling of meeting someone who takes you to a place "where my life starts again".
The overall feel of this beautiful album is one of contentment and being in harmony with one another and with nature. Certainly, the lush, baroque musical settings and the ornate lyrics are influenced by the sounds of 1966/67 but ,in my view, that is absolutely a Good Thing. Highly recommended.
|Passerine: Harbingers||Fairport Convention: Come All Ye: The First Ten Years (1968-78)|
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