Mark Olson - Many Colored Kite
Record Label: Rykodisc
Release Date: July 27, 2010
How far can reputation take you? At what point do you break free from the shackles of your past? Those are questions that constantly resurface when listening to Many Colored Kite, the sophomore release from Mark Olson. Known throughout rock music circles for his role in co-founding the Minnesota quartet The Jayhawks, Olson released his critically-lauded debut record in 2006.
Album opener "Little Bird of Freedom," is twangy and melodic anchored by harmony vocals from (insert female name here). After a shaky opening, the song hits its stride and works itself out, resulting in a nostalgia-laden send up akin to The Byrds and CSNY. "Morning Dove," is an intimate slab of folksinger frankness and the first real opportunity for Olson to display his unique and captivating vocals. The pitter-patter of hand-touched drums marks the beginning to the solemn "Many Colored Kite," a feathery and maudlin affair decorated in 1970s country-rock.
A jazzy bass solo opens up "Bluebell Song," another attempt to revisit Laurel Canyon and the halcyon days of the early 70s. With the exception of "No Time to Live Without Her" and "Scholastica," the rest of Fly Your Kite is tremendous. "Beehive," is a gorgeous, orchestra-laden affair, while the amiable "Your Life Beside Us," revisits the genius of John Denver. Strings return to the fray on the lilting "Kingsnake," and the dusty "Wind and Rain," featuring harmony vocals from Beau Raymond.The album's last effort is the dusty, acoustic gem "More Hours," a reminder that even after all these years, Olson still has it.
But at what point does one listen to Many Colored Kite and see the work as Olson and only Olson. When does his involvement with The Jayhawks get swept under the rug. The worry of course is that he'll always be linked to their seminal status as the torchbearers of alt. country and a myriad of other similar offshoots. And while that's all well and good, there comes a time when Olson needs to be looked as a Midwestern singer-songwriter trying to make a buck. Perhaps then, he'll have his earned fair shake.
Nice, Greg. I knew you'd be the one to take on this album. I was going to write it for Reviler, but it got lost in the shuffle. I saw Mark and Gary perform with The Jayhawks lineup that hasn't performed together in 15 years about a month ago when they did three shows at First Avenue. It was incredible to say the least. I've been getting into more of Mark's solo stuff as of late, but nothing comes close to what the early Jayhawks were. If you have the chance, you should pick up the Bunkhouse album. Cheers, man.