Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mark Olson: Little Bird of Freedom

Caught Mark Olson at Club Passim two nights ago and wanted to get the word out that if you can see him perform go do it. He left Cambridge Sunday night for Portland, Maine, then he said he was going straight to Germany where he was going to meet up with Ingunn Ringvold who he made his latest album with.

I am fairly familiar with the Jayhawks, but really didn't know a lot about Mark as a solo performer. The great thing about Club Passim is how intimate the setting is. Now most of the time when you call a venue "intimate" it means the tables are all crowded on top of one another. And, yes, that is true about Club Passim, although whoever is sitting next to you is likely to be equally as interested in music as you are, and likely to know even more. After all, it is Cambridge. But intimate, in this case, also means that the artists and the patrons mingle, and while Mark and Mallory, one of Club Passim's crack sound technicians (the club has a wonderful, clear-sounding sound system) set up, I turned in my chair and saw someone who was clearly a musician walk in from backstage (it's really an outdoor patio) clutching a fiddle case, and wearing lime green pants, suspenders, a yellow shirt, and a straw hat that rode over the clearest blue eyes I think I've ever seen. It was Mike "Razz" Russell, longtime cohort of Olson's and a member of The Creekdippers. I still didn't know who he was, but we talked about him going to the movies at the Brattle Street Theater where he fell asleep, and about music and playing and a little bit about how he got together with Mark. He said if Mark hadn't asked him to play he still might be sitting on his front porch. Afterward, Mark stood in the lobby and talked with us far longer than you'd ever expect him to do. He seemed genuinely happy to be talking to us about his music and what he was up to and about the gig he just played.

Mark and Mike are both from Minnesota, and from living in Boston for so long, and always having to deal with both its angry and snooty sides, it was such a breath of fresh air to talk to them and watch them perform. They were joyous and had so much fun together (they had a drummer, whose name I don't know but he was so tight and had such a beautiful voice, like one you'd hear in a choir.) Mark's songs are optimistic and loaded with imagery from the outdoors, again something you'd expect from the Midwest.

Mark played a lot from his newest album, Many Colored Kite. This is the opening track and I love it. It fits in so much with the play I'm writing right now, Highland Center, Indiana.

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