When singers perform on stage with a band it's very easy for their lyrical potency to be diluted by the onstage sonic alchemy. As a founding member and primary singer/songwriter of The Jayhawks, Mark Olson often sang behind the beat, letting the music dictate which direction his voice would travel, but on his newest album to date, Many Colored Kite his voice leads the inspiring sounds that create this beautiful collection of songs. Recorded over a month's time in Portland with producer/engineer Beau Raymond, Many Colored Kite finds Olson embracing a brighter outlook on life, exploring themes of freedom, struggle, isolation and belonging, spirituality and love. "To me, a 'many colored kite' is the idea that instead of having a restrictive world, let's have an inclusive one where it's good for people to have different ideas, different faiths, different languages," Olson explains. On the song, "Your Life Beside Us" Olson's captivating voice complimented by his heartfelt lyrics transmit a spiritual longing for good in one's life; whereas, the miracle song, inspired by doves which appeared in front of his house upon its completion, "Morning Dove," marks the very first time Olson performs completely solo and acoustic. "I've always been in bands or groups; I've always liked playing off of other people," he admits. "But this song seemed so direct and personal, that I just went for it."
A two year touring stint for his critically acclaimed 2007 album, The Salvation Blues was the fire that fueled Many Colored Kite. Most of what Olson refers to as "little moral stories" were inspired by the thousands of miles he spent in trains, planes, and automobiles trekking across America with his worldly bandmates, Norwegian singer and multi-instrumentalist Ingunn Ringvold and Italian violinist Michele Gazich. "It was more than a band," He confesses. "Ingunn was my girlfriend and Michele was this guy whose company I really enjoyed, and the way to keep that going was to write a new album together." Although The Salvation Blues was Mark Olson's solo debut Many Colored Kite is truly his breakthrough album because it captures his identity. "I put everything I had into this one," Olson reveals. "I tried to play my best, sing my best, and write my best. I want this to look towards the future, and I hope the story goes on," and after listening to this enchanting body of work, so will you.
Review by Sam Frank ©2010