Mark Olson - Good-bye Lizelle - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mark Olson - Good-bye Lizelle

by Jeff Penczak Rating:6 Release Date:2014-10-06

I’m consciously trying to avoid referencing the 'J' word, but Olson is apparently trading under the name recognition to market his third solo album. Why else would he shortchange his wife, Norwegian singer/multi-instrumentalist Ingunn Ringvold (cf, three albums as Sailorine) by omitting her name from the album cover when it is clear that she’s as integral to this collection of laid-back Eastern European-inspired world music as he is?

Whether an unfortunate oversight or label-imposed mandate, it shouldn’t detract from Ringvold’s elegant harmonies or smorgasbord of exotic instruments ranging from Qanon and Clavinova to Djembe and Harmonium. A simple illustration: when I looked at the cover (which does feature a photo of both Olson and Ringvold), I assumed, as most purchasers probably would, that she was the titular Lizelle. Au contraire, mon frère.

But on to the music and 'J' fans will not be amused if they expect this to follow on from the Mockingbird Time reunion album. One listen to ‘Running Circles’ and the first influence springing to mind will be the enigmatic, often painfully tune/toneless Incredible String Band. Olson sounds like he’s reaching for some unknown emotional tag deep within his soul, but, Jesus, is he off-key. ‘Poison Oleander’ is either written in notes he can’t hit or he’s just sadly out of range. Be forewarned: Good-bye Lizelle plays it fast and loose with the vocal accompaniments.

But not all is lost, so don’t count on adding this to your Frisbee collection just yet. ‘Heaven’s Shelter’ is an achingly lovely ballad highlighted by Ringvold’s emotional harmonies, and by the time the backporch, campfire tearjerker ‘Cherry Thieves’ rolls around, I’ve almost (almost) forgotten the awkward opening trio of tuneless 'spontaneity that threatened to derail the project from the get-go. We’re starting to enter Tom Rapp’s Pearls Before Swine territory and things are looking up.

The minimalist, one-take atmospherics (the album was recorded in cabins and apartments from South Africa and Scandinavia to Armenia, Czechoslovakia, and the US) are apparent, but fittingly appropriate to such politically-charged questions as ‘Which World is Ours?’ (the album was born out of the harrowing experience that saw Ringvold deported from the US for two-and-a-half years). Ringvold’s percussive effects and unusual string instrumentation add an exotic Eastern vibe to tracks like ‘Say You Are the River’, while Marek Špelina’s flutework on the dizzy ‘Jesse in an Old World’ suggests the endlessly fascinating work of another Eastern European musical duo, Anna Nacher and Marek Styczyński, aka Projekt Karpaty Magiczne (The Magic Carpathians).

In short, a rough start salvaged by a strong b-side ultimately tips me over to the positive side. Just don’t expect another Americana record!

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    I won't use the 'J' word either, as I loved his earlier solo albums probably as much as his other work. I just referenced him in another review which led me here. My Own Jo Ellen and the Creekdippers stuff was so good, so I just couldn't get into this later work.

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