When Mark Olson left The Jayhawks, he left constant touring, louder and bigger venues, deceitful label politics and economics, and a music quickly becoming a game of in-studio sonic one-ups-manship, rather than the mild-souled country folk lyrics of his best work. He retreated to the desert with wife Victoria Williams, began working on new songs and last February set to recording in his home studio.
Fleshed out by the fiddle work of Mike "Razz" Russell and the tart, child-like vocals of Williams, the record has the feel of a personal victory, the intimacy of lazy, summery, found art. The songs are homages to innocence preserved and renewal possible: "Flowering Trees," "When School Begins," "Run With the Ponies," "She Picks the Violets," "Eyes are the Window (To Your Soul)". Everyone who knows The Jayhawks will miss Gary Louris's harmonies, but Olson is a confident, supple and completely unaffected vocalist on his own.
And as country music - alternative or mainstream - discovers the gizmos and gloss success can bring, nothing could be more refreshing than the peace and honesty of these songs, the understated expression of Olson's newfound, magical freedom. (Available for $12 from P.O. Box 342, Joshua Tree, CA 92252)