Mark Olson walked away from certain alt. country enshrinement when he left The Jayhawks at the moment when they were poised to take their place among the best the genre had to offer.
This album shows conclusively why Olson couldn't remain in the narrow confines of The Jayhawks. The disc is a wonderful pastiche of bluegrass and folk and Cajun and country as practiced in Olson's rustic Joshua Tree, Cal. studio. The atmosphere is so relaxed, you can hear the stretch of the wicker chairs in the quieter passages. Olson is joined here by his wife, the incomparable Victoria Williams in her alter ego guise as "Mabel Allbright," as well as fellow multi-instrumentalist Mike Russell and guest guitarist Marc Ford of Black Crowes fame.
This is great stuff, with a lo fi back porch campfire vibe that is obviously where Olson wants to exist for the moment. The only downside to the album is its brevity (10 songs in less than 30 minutes) and the nagging feeling that Olson could plug in and blow away every Wilco wannabe in a thousand mile radius. Until such time as he deems that appropriate, the Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers will do nicely. (Available for $12 CD from Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers, Box 342, Joshua Creek, CA 92252)