A roller coaster in a long-closed Lake Minnetonka amusement park, walks through historic orthodox churches, a fossil-collecting canoe trip along the Niobrara River, and an isolated pizza place in South Africa. Old memories swirling in the warm Joshua Tree breezes provided Jayhawks founder Mark Olson and his wife, Norwegian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Ingunn Ringvold, with the inspiration for the set of intriguing, imagistic songs that lovingly fill their latest outing, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation, coming June 5th from Fiesta Red Records.
The album’s ten tracks draw upon the couple’s recent adventures together and their earlier adventures apart as well as tapping into, and stretching out, their own individual musical influences. While continuing along the Americana-cobbled roads they took on their first two albums, Olson and Ringvold explore lesser traveled musical territories on this release. Without exactly knowing where they were going, the two were emboldened by each other’s company and unafraid to push forward.
The Armenian Qanon, the Mellotron, the dulcimer, and djembe drums are among the world of instruments that the multi-talented Ringvold contributed to Magdalen’s sound. The variety of arrangements on the album act, she explains, “like a different color in an impressionistic painting.” Ringvold also is thrilled about being able to weave elements of her family’s musical heritage into her own songs and the interesting ways that her work blended in with Olson’s original material.
All of Magdalen’s original track recordings were done on a Nagra field recorder, which further enhanced the album’s unvarnished sonic textures. Additionally, Olson and Ringvold were perfectly in sync when it came to the recording process. He did all the analog engineering while she did the digital. Handling the mixing and mastering, as he had on Spokeswoman of the Bright Sun, was the award-winning producer John Schreiner, and Olson sings high praise for the warmth and spaciousness that Schreiner delivers in his work.
Today Glide is delighted to offer a premiere of “Silent Mary,” one of the standout tracks on the new album. Driven by the somber and enchanting piano, the sound is a slowburning ballad, Olson’s voice is immediately identifiable as one half of the iconic alt-country group the Jayhawks. Though he no longer plays with the band he co-founded, his voice sounds intact and he remains one of the best harmonizers out there, in this case with Ringvold for a beautiful, heartfelt sound. With a subtle instrumental backdrop of 60s psychedelia guitar that reflects the influence of the California desert, the duo tap into a slowburning and powerful folk vibe that pulls you in.
Olson shares the inspiration and process behind the song:
“I try to make writing a spiritual exercise, in the sense that it is good for a person, like a nice evening, and I want to see what new kind of thought and melody can I make up on the porch with an instrument. Having lived in the California desert for 25 years is important, and I have a porch now. In the early days in Minnesota I didn’t. I was constantly moving and wrote a lot of songs in Southern and Northwestern MN at family relation-houses. Also I like to write outside and I finished some of this song at a park bench in Big Pine, CA.
The most important line in Silent Mary is “Her designs are made of bright vermillion clay / Paintings left on thrift store chairs “ This is the whole song in a nutshell. What are we talking about here? The man who designed the SunMaid raisin box artwork was from Fresno, CA at the turn of the last century. His daughter lived to be over 100 years old and lived near us in Joshua Tree. The artwork on the raisin box is beautiful and in a way it represents an early idealized vision of California. So it’s a bright lovely design that was a part of this woman’s life, something that made her and others smile.
Joshua Tree is the home to mostly thrift store–though that is starting to change. There’s lots of thrift store art you can collect here. Paintings that people have worked on just like the SunMaid raisin graphics. These people put their heart and souls into the paintings. And people pick them up, take a look at them and then leave them on chairs. That’s the big event on a hot summer day in Joshua Tree. That is the general vibe of ‘Silent Mary.’ All the other drama going on in this song, like letters going out the window, is being channeled from this one place–the beautiful design that is left on a chair.”
Magdalen Accepts the Invitation is out June 5th on Fiesta Red Records. For more music and info visit markolsonmusic.com.