“These are the days I remember.” With these words, Mark Olson opens his latest solo venture Many Colored Kite. These are good days for Olson, particularly coming as they do on the heels of the stormy times that he outlined in his 2007 album The Salvation Blues. The Jayhawks founder is a man who appreciates the gifts that he’s been given, and aims to enumerate them in song.
The songs range from heartfelt acoustic tracks that celebrate the natural world like “Morning Dove” and “Beehive,” to “Wind and Rain,” “Scholastica,” and the opening “Little Bird of Freedom” (featuring a guest appearance by Jolie Holland on background vocals), which recall the Americana rock sound that Olson helped to pioneer with the Jayhawks.
In addition to Olson, the core group of musicians on Many Colored Kite includes Neal Casal, and Danny Frankel. There are ethereal vocal harmonies from Ingunn Ringvold throughout. The album was simply and effectively produced by Beau Raymond, who has worked with Devendra Barnhart, and Mark Olson and Gary Louris. Of particular note are the wonderfully sympathetic string arrangements that illuminate songs like “Your Life Beside Us,” “Kingsnake,” and “Beehive.”
The one thing that all the songs share is the deep and unmistakable spiritual commitment that echoes from every track. Whether he’s writing about the world outside of his window, or the world inside his heart, Olson’s voice is that of a man fully at peace with himself. It took me a few plays to fully appreciate the beauty of sound and sentiment in this music, but once I dug in, I found a world of rewards. If these songs fail to move you profoundly on an emotional level, you’ve got a harder heart than mine.