Americana Highways

by Jeff Burger

Mark Olson & Ingunn Ringvold, Magdalen Accepts the InvitationThe arrival of a new album from Mark Olson—and, in recent years, from him and his wife, Norwegian native Ingunn Ringvold—is always cause for celebration in my house. Olson cofounded the Jayhawks and provided many of their most memorable songs, vocals, and guitar parts before moving on to form the equally wonderful Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers with Victoria Williams. Ringvold—who only made the cover photo on 2017’s Spokeswoman of the Bright Sunbut gets equal billing with Olson here—provides moody string arrangements and beautiful harmony vocals and plays Mellotron, dulcimer, and other instruments.

The duo’s impressionistic lyrics are often as indecipherable as they are fascinating, at least until Olson explains them. (Talking about “Children of the Street Car,” for example, he says he intended the line “fog minus time” to mean “current day San Francisco minus time equals the heyday of experimental folk rock.”) But even when the lyrics seem cryptic, this melodic, richly textured pop/folk album remains accessible; and frequently it is nothing short of magical. Though newly recorded, it sounds as if it could have been a product of the era that produced outfits like the Incredible String Band, Pearls Before Swine, and Jefferson Airplane. That’s good news as far as I’m concerned.