Two years after leaving the Jayhawks Mark Olson finally resurfaces, and most inconspicuously, with a 10-song homemade record — and we do mean homemade: Not only was it recorded in the living room of the home in the Joshua Tree desert he shares with his wife, Victoria Williams, but he’s also selling it out of his house as well.
The Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers are Olson, Williams and Mike “Raz” Russell, though Olson wrote all the songs. While the Gary Louris-led Jayhawks took a headlong plunge into majestic, esoteric pop on Sound Of Lies, Olson stands in stark contrast by delivering an absolutely unfettered, uncluttered, all-acoustic affair. The mood of this album is obvious just from a quick glance at some of its song titles: “Run With The Ponies”, “She Picks The Violets”, “Hummingbird”.
Indeed, the effortlessness of the music is so disarming that at first it almost seems too easy — until eventually it becomes clear that the sheer innocence is forging an irresistible emotional connection. Williams floats wandering vocals like wisps upon the wind as Olson whistles a tune on harmonica and sings of “wild roses, and flowering trees” on the album’s opening track. Next, he’s reminiscing about the wonder of those early autumn days “When School Begins”, days when “miracles are just around the bend.” An eerie vignette titled “Mr. Parker” intriguingly poses more questions than it answers, while the tender sketch “Eyes Are The Window” offers a simple yet significant ponderance to consider: “Eyes are the window to your soul/What does it show?”
Gently strummed acoustic guitar provides the instrumental backbone — there are no drums — with minimal touches of piano, mandolin, banjo and fiddle gracefully accenting the melodies here and there. Lazy, laid-back, carefree and utterly devoid of cynicism, the Creek Dippers create a perfect summer day that in your dreams would stretch on forever. It’s the kind of music that’s impossible to strive for, to fashion from careful study or conscious effort; the only way it happens like this is when it flows straight out from the soul.