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Mark Olson

Many Colored Kite – 2010 (Rykodisc)

Reviewed by Andrew W. Griffin

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CDs by Mark Olson

Snug in his sweater vest and looking towards the sky, folk-rocker Mark Olson appears to have reached a comfortable point in his post-Jayhawks career if the sepia-toned photo of Olson on the cover of his new solo disc is to be considered. The 11 songs by Olson (he co-founded The Jayhawks and split with them in '95 following the release of their seminal "Tomorrow the Green Grass") are pleasant enough, but break no new ground.

Olson's flat, nasally Midwestern-accented voice brings to mind Wisconsinite Gordon Gano on the sprightly nugget Little Bird of Freedom. Bluebell Song is a highlight, with its breezy, folk-rock feel and female background vocal. It's easy to be charmed by the romantic folk-pop of Your Life Beside Us. One could imagine the 60's band The Left Banke recording this pretty gem.

Olson's sometimes grating voice is a bit distracting on songs like No Time to Live Without Her.

Wind and Rain takes on an almost dreamy quality before it segues into a spoken word piece with Olson recalling a time as a boy, traveling down to South Dakota with his parents and thinking about life and family. A subtle thing of beauty.

Olson works best when accompanied by another singer. He reunited with his old Jayhawks partner Gary Louris on 2009's terrific "Ready For the Flood," which worked so well because Olson and Louris were meant to sing together. Not that "Many Colored Kite" is a mediocre album. No, it's just lacking that extra consistent voice that compliments Olson's.