The Salvation Blues
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6
Written by John Metzger
Sun June 10, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
A decade after leaving The Jayhawks behind, Mark Olson rekindled his partnership with Gary Louris in order to embark upon a brief tour. As it turns out, the excursion was far more than a reunion of old friends; it also was part of a therapeutic healing process through which Olson was hoping that a reestablished connection to his past would enable him to come to terms with his present situation. Although the duo had collaborated on Say Youíll Be Mine, a song from Olsonís 2002 endeavor Decemberís Child, it took the dissolution of his marriage to singer-songwriter Victoria Williams and the subsequent loss of his home to push his journey of personal introspection into high gear.
Woven from the same threads of country, rock, folk, pop, and soul that he had explored quite thoroughly with The Jayhawks ó and with his own band The Creekdippers, for that matter ó the material on The Salvation Blues doesnít push Olson beyond his musical comfort zone. In fact, the outing is as laid-back, earthy, and organic as anything he ever has concocted. His conservative approach, however, was entirely necessary because it provides the soothing familiarity that his lyrical ruminations require.
In effect, The Salvation Blues loosely sketches the tumultuous, questioning period of self-discovery through which Olson has wandered over the course of the past decade. Its opening trilogy of songs sets the stage for everything that follows: My Carol is a pledge of devotion to Williams, while Clifton Bridge follows the couple as they take refuge in the desert. As for Poor Michaelís Boat, Olson had begun writing it when he was with The Jayhawks, and the presence of Gary Lourisí vocal harmonies lends credence to the notion that the tune since has come to signify the splintering of his former band. Although Olson also reflects upon his fatherís suicide (Keith and Look into the Night), the bulk of the endeavor is devoted to the calamitous events that sent his life spiraling out of control. "Where is my home?/How could I lose this in a day?" he asks on The National Express, and later, in the haunting demo that concludes the outing, he sadly states, "Iíve become a hobo/My babyís been crying/And I donít have a home no more."
Despite the nearly unwavering presence of its melancholy streak, The Salvation Blues still manages to cling quite tightly to an optimistic outcome. Within the quiet intimacy of Sandy Denny, for example, Olson realizes that "the things we dislike in others we find in ourselves," while on the title track, he rises from his despair to discover the bittersweet beauty of his own songs. "Thereís such joy and sweet moments to be found in this world," he sings as if he was trying to purge the sorrow from his bones, and by the time the tune concludes, one is left with the impression that Olson just might have found the strength to rise and face another day. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box