Together Again: Gary Louris and Mark Olson to play WFPK Fundraiser

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Preview by Kevin Wilson kevin@louisville.com

Though both men have enjoyed respectable solo careers and participated in many noteworthy side-projects, Gary Louris and Mark Olson are best known as founding members of the Jayhawks. During the initial decade of the band’s 20 year run, the Jayhawks issued four albums (that straddled folk, blues, country, and rock) and settled into a prestigious home on Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label. Though loved by critics, fellow musicians, and a core of loyal fans, the Jayhawks were never really embraced by the mainstream like label-mates, the Black Crowes. Frustrated and longing for a simpler path, Olson quit the band in 1995 and Louris was left to oversee the group’s legacy. To his credit, Louris managed to keep the Jayhawks vibrant and relevant for another ten years despite a series of personnel adjustments (including Olson’s departure). On the three subsequent Jayhawks releases, Louris and company pursued a more ambitious and overtly pop-oriented sound before ultimately embarking on an indefinite sabbatical in 2005. Since that time, Louris has worked with the likes of Tim Easton, Jeff Tweedy, and the Dixie Chicks. Olson, by contrast, has firmly established himself as a guardian of the folk tradition. Escaping the big label headaches and rock & roll lifestyle, Olson retreated to Joshua Tree, California where he renovated a cabin, started an orchard, and began specializing in “living room albums.” These endearingly low-budget affairs have mostly been recorded under the moniker Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers and sold directly from Olson’s desert home. But, for the first time in 15 years, Louris and Olson have re-connected for a new studio collaboration. Ready for the Flood (which was produced by their old friend Chris Robinson) is a beautifully sparse, mellow and soulful affair. The much-anticipated disc finally hit stores in January and the duo hits town on February 15th for a Phoenix Hill Tavern performance that benefits WFPK. For more information about this show, visit www.wfpk.org.

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