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Mark Olson and the Creekdippers

December’s Child (Dualtone). Review by Sean Slone.

Mark Olson and the Creekdippers

December’s Child

Dualtone

If you haven’t followed Mark Olson’s career since he left the Jayhawks following 1995’s Tomorrow the Green Grass, his latest record with The Creekdippers may be a good place to catch up with him. That’s because he reunites with his former Jayhawk songwriting partner Gary Louris on one track here. “Say You’ll Be Mine” melds the musical styles of the two and they still sound great harmonizing together. The melody sounds like some lost tune from the ’70s (“It Never Rains in Southern California,” maybe?). Louris’ post-Olson Jayhawks records have shown a distinct ’70s rock influence. But the song also has the rough-hewn homespun flavor that Olson has explored since leaving the band.

But that’s not the only thing that makes December’s Child a keeper. “How Can I Send Tonight (There To Tell You)” sounds like a living room party with Olson’s wife, Victoria Williams, and the rest of The Creekdippers gathered around. The Band is an obvious touchstone on “Still We Have a Friend In You” which feels like hanging out with old friends. “Remember the sweet sway / And stillness of your evening hands / We need a gentle touch / When our time ends,” Olson sings. “Nerstrand Woods” has a great back porch sound and a versatile vocal from Olson.

Then there’s the bittersweet nostalgia of “How Can This Be”: “There’s a place that I would shutter every window / On the chance that I might see / All the childhood friends / That used to walk this street / All the fear will be buried ten years ago,” Olson sings. The title track is a nice acoustic blues number with Michael Russell’s fiddle and Williams’ wah-wah banjo leading the way. Williams’ eccentric vocal style is featured heavily on the bluesy set-closing “One Eyed Black Dog Moses.” An ancient sounding upright piano is key to the sound of “Cactus Wren.” “If you see my aunt there / Tell her I’ll be home / I love her so,” Olson sings. And “Climb These Steps We Will” manages to be both homespun and spiritual.

Olson sounds like he’s doing just fine in 2002, thank you very much, still writing and singing songs that come from the heart. And still sounding great doing it.

Dualtone Records: http://www.dualtone.com • Mark Olson and the Creekdippers: http://www.creekdipper.com

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