In the early 90s, The Jayhawks, more than any other band, opened the door to me then labeled alt.country. I owned a second-hand copy of Hollywood Town Hall before I owned a CD player and while my school friends were singing along to Cigarettes and Alcohol, I was discovering the delights of the steel guitar.
Originally The Jayhawks had two singer-guitarists, Mark Olson and Gary Louris, but Olson quit in 1995, upping sticks to Joshua Tree, CA with his new wife Victoria Williams. I never got to see the twin-pronged Jayhawks live. I seem to remember that they played a London gig the day before my English A-Level.
Mark Olson's new album, The Salvation Blues, is his first proper solo record and sits comfortably alongside his albums with The Jayhawks. After leaving that band he formed The Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers with his wife and released a solid run of A-grade twang. However, that marriage ended a year or so ago and this new record is the sound of Olson reasserting himself.
Wednesday's all too short set drew heavily from The Salvation Blues, plus three old favorites from The Jayhawks' classic Tomorrow The Green Grass and a handful of Creekdippers tunes. Olson's small continental band comprised a sprightly Italian, Michele Gazich, on fiddle and double bass and a Norweigian, Ingunn Ringvold, playing percussion and keyboards.
They sounded terrific and though not exactly chatty Olson seemed to be having a good time. Much of The Salvation Blues was written in the UK so it's also entertaining to hear references to the Clifton Suspension Bridge and National Express coaches in such rich slices of Americana.
Gary Louris and Mark Olson have recently recorded an album together, due out some time next year (after Louris' first solo LP) and they're hoping to tour together next Autumn. I can't wait.