Mark Olson was the acoustic troubadour to Gary Louris’ fuzz-guitar icon in the alt-country hallmarks The Jayhawks, and his solo work has continued in the same vein, but at an unsteady pace with many peaks and valleys.
Many Colored Kite is signature Olson, boasting a collective of well-intentioned compositions painted with easy folk and chamber-pop nuance. At his best, Olson churns out colorful compositions that recall ‘60s pioneers like The Byrds (“Little Bird of Freedom,” “Bluebell Song”). In contrast, his slower, stripped-down compositions are rigid (“Beehive,” “More Hours”); Olson’s hold on the songwriter’s craft is clear, but his translation to the listeners is inconsistent, some songs feel cold and uncaring.
Mark Olson is an innovator and a songwriting veteran, and Many Colored Kite displays his gift for crafting catchy compositions. Where the album sputters is on delivery; Olson shines in the swirl of orchestration, but flickers when standing on his own.
Many Colored Kite is out now on Ryko.