Mark Olson formerly of The Jayhawks with Ingunn Ringvold
Mark Olson surfaced as a songwriter of note when The Jayhawks emerged crossing post-punk with “new” country in a genre we now call ‘Americana’. Olson later formed the much loved Original Harmony Creekdippers along with a caravan of guests who were responsible for a series of truly remarkable albums including My Own Jo Ellen and Mystic Theatre. It could be said Olson’s lo-fi approach spawned a new generation of songwriters such as Iron and Wine, Bon Iver and the like.
Olson re-appears after a three year hiatus accompanied by his wife and musical collaborator Ingunn Ringvold to deliver Spokeswoman of the Bright Sun. The couple live in Joshua Tree, California and the album was written and recorded at their home. From the opening song the listener is greeted by Olson’s trademark wistful vocals and Ringvold’s harmonies which create the feeling of intimacy.
The musical partnership of Mark and Ingunn has produced a glorious-sounding new album of songs “Spokeswoman of the Bright Sun” 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?”
This is music that will speak to you about things that have happened! An album that sounds like you are alone in the desert all by yourself. Remembering childhood experiences and musical instruments and all the joy that took place. We have forgotten because of terrible things that have happened. Is it the truthfulness that attracts you to this music? Listen out of time: Mark Olson & Ingunn Ringvold are singing ‘Spokeswoman of the Bright Sun’.
The songs — “Time of Love” “Nicola” and “All My Days” in particular — also bring to mind hints of the Incredible String Band in their lilting gait and angular execution. Still, comparisons should not negate the easy, affable tones and the sumptuous serendipity fully displayed here. Indeed, this Spokeswoman has substance to share.
‘Spokeswoman’ is a lyrical and poetic album. Filled with gently strummed guitars, dulcimer, bass and mellotron the ambience is spacious and reflective and demonstrates Ringvold’s skills with string arrangements. This new album finds Mark Olson in a seemingly philosophical frame of mind. The relaxed and contemplative feel of the record asks big questions if its listeners. There is an economy about the album. Songs are short, uncomplicated yet inventive and without ever breaking sweat have that certain something that reflects the intimate and relaxed atmosphere in which they were recorded. The gentle hazy psychedelic country flavor of these songs leave you with the feeling that Olson, despite his musings, has found what life is all about.
Don’t miss your chance to see this rock n roll legend when he stops in Bozeman on Tuesday, November 28th at The Filling Station. The doors are at 7pm and music is scheduled to begin around 8pm. You can get tickets for $15 adv at Cactus Records, and cactusrecords.net or they will be available at the door for $18 door.