Mark Olson

December's Child

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Life in the desert with wife Victoria Williams certainly has focused Mark Olson's eye for lyrical detail. Whether singing about around-the-clock meth labs or newspaper roses sold by the side of the road, he creates fully realized worlds within each song on December's Child. The lo-fi folk vibe of the earlier self-released Creekdippers recordings and 2000's My Own Jo Ellen remains, and Olson again shares credit for the album with the Creekdippers. But the electricity and amplification have been turned up a bit, too -- rather than deliberately eschewed as he seemed to prefer after first going relatively solo. If Williams is less of a vocal presence (except for trading verses on the raucous closer, "One Eyed Black Dog Moses"), she lets her funky wah-wah banjo fill any resulting gap. What may surprise many fans is that Olson is joined on one song by his former Jayhawks partner Gary Louris, though the co-written "Say You'll Be Mine" is considerably looser than their previous work together. That it's no less ramshackle than the rest of this worthwhile album is a testament to an endearing minimalist approach that allows Olson to refine his singing and songwriting talents rather than bother himself with fussy production concerns.

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