Rarely do I fall to the mini-mythologies that make up the modern press release. Occasionally, if I hear a disc by a name performer that is, well, not quite what the PR proclaims, I'll pore over it hoping to muster something constructive to the artist and instructive to the listener, to report.
Somewhere in the middle of all this is where I find myself with The Salvation Blues. Beautifully packaged to recreate one of the small literary hardcover books of the 50's, there's a story behind the music: His wife, singer/songwriter Victoria Williams leaves him. Resultant in that he loses his hand built home in Joshua Tree. The band he shared with Williams, The Creekdippers, disbands. He then wanders and tours around Europe, writing and recording.
Then there's the resume: Founding member of alt-country legends The Jayhawks. Creative light behind their first four recordings, notably 'Tomorrow The Green Grass'. Favorably spoken about as a latter day Gram Parsons. This is first true solo album.
Now, despite my years of critical training to remain objective about these matters, my expectations start to understandably grow. I tell friends I have my hands on this new disc and their expectations do likewise.
Oh, the songs are pure and fine enough, their humanism shining through every trial, even if they are set in your usual country/folk/rock mold. Olson's imperfect yet perfect for their subject vocals gives ground to the exquisite Poor Michael's Boat (co-written and harmonized by fellow Jayhawk Gary Louris); The National Express (co-written with Williams); the wounded, yet wonderful My Carol waltz; the triumphant and redemptive Clifton Bridge and Sandy Denny. I mean these are songs that would stand out in anyone's repertoire.
Yet somehow—and I can't quite explain it—I don't feel like I'm hearing the whole story. Like Olson should have, could have gone deeper into his heart, into our psyches, and not leave me standing on the shore looking at a reflection. It's weird I know, but that's how I feel about it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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