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Mark Olson and Guests (Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005, Lee’s Liquor Lounge)

By Cyn Collins

Mark Olson played at Lee’s Liquor Lounge Wednesday with the Creekdippers minus Victoria Williams, whom he says is busy working on projects back home in Joshua Tree. The show featured Creekdippers fiddler Razz Russell, and drummer Ray Wood as well as guest guitarists Caleb Polmiter and Steven Wechsler.

The show was beautiful and intimate. It felt cozy actually (one of the first times I’ve ever sensed “coziness” at a show.) I’ve seen Olson many times, first with the Jayhawks years ago and at the New Year’s Eve reunion at the 400 Bar this past year, and a few times last summer with the Creekdippers, at Loring Park, The Viking Bar, Lee’s Liquor Lounge and the Cedar Cultural Center. The latter three shows were during a fast 1 – ½ week time period last summer before their European tour for their CD, Political Manifest. So, by deep immersion last summer I quickly became very familiar with Creekdippers music, and deeply enamored of William’s voice and quirky endearing charm. I purchased three of her CD’s the following week.

At those shows, the Creekdippers onstage banter and changing over of instruments and casual ease completely won me over. I appreciated the ways that Olson and Williams harmonized together, and kept each other and the crowd entertained and in great spirits.

I feel funny about talking about Lee’s Liquor Lounge show song by song as I do for other reviews. The Lee’s show was comfortable, familiar and thought-provoking, a quieter show than perhaps many there in the crowded house had expected – it was difficult to discern who were Jayhawks fans, Creekdippers fans, or both. Olson’s focus is now more on the slower, quieter folk style of the Creekdippers, and the music of the Political Manifest CD than on louder rock shows.

Razz Russell’s fiddle warrants much kudos. I attend every show I can that he plays at. His versatility is extraordinary. He’s a brilliant musician, one of the best fiddlers in town, yet quiet and humble about it. He’s not showy either. He’s more playful and joyful about playing fiddle than most people I’ve seen, playing with long bow, smooth slow strokes in many styles. At the Lee’s show he played country style, Cajun style, East-European-influenced, and jazz style. To comfortably and skillfully play the different styles requires huge talent, and many years of dedication and love for the thing. Russell’s got it.

Olson and friends played many songs off Political Manifest, an anti-Bush CD made before the election as part of the effort to protest four more years and to educate people. This music is the heart of what Olson is doing right now.

I kept hearing the voice of Victoria Williams in my head on some songs such as “We Should Walk with Them” and “Where’s my Baby Boy.” I kept wishing she were there to sing, particularly “One Eyed Black Dog Moses” which feels like a true Williams song with its whimsical humor and groovy rhythm. Although the show sounded great, it just wasn’t the same without her charming style and conversational banter with the audience. Of course the simple honesty, humor and poetry of the lyrics, Olson’s emotive vocals, the great drumming and harmony vocals of Wood, bass and fiddle and vocals of Russell served to make the show another great Olson experience.

I want to recommend that people check out one or both of Mark Olson and Creekdippers two upcoming shows while he’s still in town. He’ll be at Oak Center General Store on April 15th, in Lake City, and at the 400 Bar April 21st.