I think I just made up my own genre of music with "power folk" but I wanted to communicate the strength and verve of the sound that opening band Vandeveer creates, followed by the stirring lyrical prowess of Mark Olson, who mixed up a beautiful set of new music, along with Jayhawks classics, Creekdippers' tunes and previous solo work as he tours behind his recent release, Many Colored Kite.
Vandeveer is guitarist Mark Heidinger -- a Lexington, KY native -- and harmony vocalist Rose Guerin. I was unfamiliar with them for the most part, but plan to remedy that pretty quick. Powerful is, indeed, the word that most comes to mind listening to the darkly beautiful melodies and the perfect blend of the two voices. Guerin has the strikingly retro appeal of a Parisian cabaret singer in contrast to Heidinger's romantically disheveled folk troubadour look. He told the story of how he saw Mark Olslon performing with the Jayhawks sixteen years ago in Louisville and finally wore his Hollywood Town Hall t-shirt to shreds. Vandeveer will open for Olson for eight or nine more shows in the tour.
Mark Olson took the stage with violinist Mike Russell and Ray Woods on drums. I was impressed with how well they played together, since this is not the same band as recorded Many Colored Kite. It probably helps that Russell and Olson are old friends from their Minneapolis days, but there isn't as long a connection with Woods. Olson told me that he and Woods rehearsed for only a week before hitting the road, but you'd never know it from the lovely harmonies he contributes to Olson's deeper, warbly voice on new songs like "No Time to Live without Her" and "Beehive," along with the rest of the repertoire.
In addition to Olson's fine guitar picking, he also played the dulcimer on "Ben Johnson's Creek." Other highlights of the night were the Jayhawk's classic "Witchita" and a great, bluesy, funk tune from Creekdipper days, "One Eyed Black Dog Moses" (with thanks to their driver/videographer for requesting it).
The atmosphere at the Rud is always warm and homey with its delicate strings of lights shimmering over the dark shadows of brick and bare wood, and it's the perfect spot to enjoy intimate sets from top-knotch singers and songwriters (the availability of New Albanian brewery's Elector Imperial Red Ale also doesn't hurt). Adding to last night's familial feeling, the owners presented Olson, who turned 49, with a surprise birthday cake and song from the audience.
Ray Woods on drums
Mike Russell and Mark Olson