Mark Olson & the Creek Dippers
Pacific Coast Rambler
After a decade of flirting with minor success, Mark Olson left The Jayhawks in 1995, to return to the roots of American music. He is the true indie musician, disinterested in trends and popular appeal. Aided by his wife, the singer Victoria Williams (credited here as “Mabel Allbright”), and various friends, he laid down The Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers in his living room in 1997. The self-released follow-up was Pacific Coast Rambler in 1999.
Due to modest acclaim, Koch Records re-released Pacific Coast Rambler in 2001. And it’s a peculiar hybrid. The reverse reads The Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers in sloppy handwriting; the front, a makeshift crayon drawing, is titled Pacific Coast Rambler. The rest of the design is exceedingly hard to read and unambitious.
This is not alt-country in the style of Wilco. It’s strained, frail and patchy, with a homespun sincerity that is all the more endearing. There is a quaint, earthy element to each of these tracks (“Kai’s Bristlecone Waltz,” “Elijah”) that skirts past the usual affectations of folk singers. Most absent is the self-consciousness that one would expect to find on a release such as this. While the music will not win over every listener, the sincerity certainly has its appeal.
The Koch re-release has two bonus tracks: “Louisiana Black Dog Moses” and “Sunny Western Winter.” Though both are lacking in recording quality, their inclusion is welcome on this musically spare album. Pacific Coast Rambler doesn’t merit praise of the highest order, but it is for the most part a genuine, back-to-basics approach that has been largely forgotten in pre-packaged studio music. For that it should be respected, if nothing else.