Rollin’ Creek Dippers – Cruise KafE (Oslo, Norway)
The ad-hoc name of Rollin’ Creek Dippers is a disguise for five individuals whose careers are of indisputable interest to readers of No Depression. Mark Olson (formerly of the Jayhawks), Victoria Williams (Olson’s wife), Jim Lauderdale, and a second husband-and-wife team of Buddy and Julie Miller are touring Europe with a low-key, singer-songwriter show for which there currently are not any American dates scheduled. The tour’s opening show hit Oslo’s Cruise KafE on a Saturday night, and the club, which has a 10-year history of presenting alternative-country acts, including two mythical shows by Uncle Tupelo, was packed with enthusiastic fans that saw the visit as a good reason to celebrate.
The five musicians did the whole show sitting down and used primarily acoustic instruments. Olson played electric bass (and occasionally acoustic guitar), while Julie Miller did minimalist drumming on an empty pizza box and what appeared to be her lyric notebook.
The five singers split the songs equally among themselves, although Lauderdale, the self-confessed fifth wheel on the wagon (a code name for the tour was the “Double Date Plus Chaperone Tour”), sort of had the role as master of ceremonies. But everyone got their democratic share of the spotlight, an approach that delivered a hugely entertaining and charming night.
Anyone who has ever witnessed Victoria Williams live knows that even her laughter signals a very special artist. (On her first visit to Norway 12 years ago, she out-weirdoed Jonathan Richman!) The show was barely under way before the first calls came for “Miss Williams’ Guitar”. The Jayhawks’ contingent in the audience was no doubt the strongest (the Jayhawks toured Norway twice and even had a radio hit here with “Blue” off their last album). Somehow Olson never got around to doing “Miss Williams’ Guitar”, and it probably says a lot about the generally good vibe of the night that the audience let him get away with it.
As this was the first night of the tour, the overall playing was pretty loose, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the songs had never even been rehearsed by the full ensemble. But the variety of five distinct voices and widely different songs definitely made up for the lack of ensemble routine. Julie Miller, the only one of the five with no recorded material available in Europe, was also the night’s big surprise. With a great voice and some very funny and moving songs, she caught everyone’s attention; her forthcoming HighTone album should be checked out by everyone who owns an Emmylou Harris or Iris DeMent record.
Lauderdale had noticed a poster advertising an upcoming Gram Parsons 50th Birthday Celebration at Cruise on November 5, and he dedicated his song “The King Of Broken Hearts” to Gram’s memory. Mark Olson followed that with his version of “Hickory Wind”. Maybe it was the spirit of Gram that moved the audience to bring the quintet back for three sets of encores?
Here in the Coldlands, quite a few of us need heavy doses of Cosmic American Music to bring us through the dark months. This was a night to bottle and label “medicine.”