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Issue: July 2009

A New Old Collaboration

Ready For the Flood (New West Records)
Mark Olson & Gary Louris

Jayhawks founders Mark Olson and Gary Louris are together yet again, having released their collaboration Ready for the Flood on New West Records. This mostly easy-paced, acoustic-based collection shows off all the vivid thoughtfulness and skill one expects from these two.

After forming the Jayhawks in 1985, and then Olson's departure from the band a decade later to tend to his ailing wife, singer-songwriter Victoria Williams, the two reunited in 2005. Their new release is evidence they plan to stick around.

This haunting collection shows little evidence of the Jayhawks' poppier side, and focuses more on ballads and lyrical imagery a decidedly folk approach. The production is quite clean and well-executed, and yet it doesn't get in the way of the main vision of letting Louris and Olson sing their songs.

This is evident on tracks like "Turn Your Pretty Name Around," in which the two sing the chorus in tandem, with some loose ends evident, while haunting keyboards and guitars, replete with tremolo and reverb, circle in the background. They're high enough in the mix to make their presence known, but never so much that they threaten to take over the reigns.

Olson and Louvis break out the electric guitars and pick up the pace a bit with songs like "Chamberlain, SD," which tells the story of a drowning death and breaks into a rock-meets-bluegrass romp by song's end. The album then dives right back into another quiet and dark ballad, "Black Eyes."

"Bloody Hands" is another such song, a mid-tempo bluegrass ballad showing us disturbing images of violence, rape and revenge. And on album closer "The Trap's Been Set," we are delivered a slightly more optimistic vision that veers into a spoken-word delivery about a childhood vision.

While I personally miss the slightly more energetic direction the Jayhawks utilized, it's good to see these two guys collaborating again. From the sound of it, they have many more stories to share.

Get more over at www.newwestrecords.com/ Olson And Louris.

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