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Mark Olson: Many Colored Kite


Mark Olson

Album: Many Colored Kite
Label: Rykodisc

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Since leaving country-rock outfit The Jayhawks, singer-songwriter Mark Olson has retreated even deeper into Americana, developing a style built on simple acoustic strumming and repeated phrases, like a wandering minstrel with a yen for spirituals. Olson’s latest solo album, Many Colored Kite, is in the spirit of Gram Parsons and Gene Clark, in that it features twangy songs that wander freely, changing tempos and instrumentation as they dig into the tangled roots of American folk music. The problem with Olson’s dual interests in simplicity and freeform song structures is that the songs on Many Colored Kite come out shapeless, and practically devoid of hooks of any kind. Frequently, Olson’s warbling voice and his continued insistence that life has meaning is enough to put these songs across, as on the sweet “Little Bird Of Freedom” and the pleading “Morning Dove.” And more than once, Olson comes up with something that sounds like an actual song, like the lilting, string-aided “Your Life Beside Us.” But if Olson really wants to open people’s eyes to the boundless wonders of life, he might do well to remember God’s gift of melody. Or, to quote his own song: “We need more daylight to see the blossoms bloom.”