10 albums that changed Mark Olson life

Mark Olson. Photo by Ingunn Ringvold/Ryko

By Chris M. Junior

Selecting favorite albums can be like eating potato chips: Sometimes it’s hard to stop at a predetermined amount.

When asked for his 10 most essential albums, Jayhawks founder Mark Olson attempted to increase the total and include works by The Band, Nick Drake, The Clash and Joni Mitchell, among others.

A rule’s a rule, so Olson — whose U.S. tour in support of his new solo album, “Many Colored Kite” (Rykodisc), runs through late September — ultimately settled on these 10 life-changing titles.

The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Harmony vocals, Woody Guthrie songs and Clarence White’s guitar all add up to a real treasure. The drumming is really distinctive and sounds better and better when you consider the over-amping of the drum kit during modern times.

Bob Dylan: Desire
I was way too young when I first bought this, and I never get tired of it. [The album had a] crazy-type of [violin] playing that had me always finding a fiddle player for the bands I was in.

Victoria Williams: Happy Come Home
This is an incredible record. Go find it and listen to it. Has anyone written a song as moving as “Main Road” in the last 25 years? This is a stunning work of art.

Lucinda Williams: Sweet Old World
I listened to this album more than any other in the studio days of The Jayhawks. I really like the sound of the band and the direct, heartbreaking lyrics. Her voice is very tender on these songs.

John Martyn: London Conversation
The ultimate folk album. The picking, singing and writing here are due to the fact that he was an extremely gifted player. I like this album best of all of his work because you just hear his voice and guitar.

Fairport Convention: What We Did On Our Holidays
I think this might be the best band sound for folk rock that I have heard. Each song has a different arrangement, and each member brings so much to the total sound of the music.

Uncle Tupelo: Anodyne
All the records on this list I have listened to many, many times at different points in my life. Here was another great folk-rock album — [it’s like] Woody Guthrie meets Husker Du in [certain] places.

Bob Marley and The Wailers: Man to Man
I heard his songs so much when I was young. He is the best. He makes me feel like I want to do something positive with my life.

Jacques Bertin: Trois Bouquets
I found this in a record store in Los Angeles. I have asked most everyone I know in France if they have heard of him, and no one seems to know of him. I listen to this all the time. Not understanding French very well is not a problem, though, because when I finally was given a translation to his song “Trois Bouquets,” I was proven right.

Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin
The lyrics to “Sin City” are my all-time fave alternative outlook statement, and it is basically from the Bible! Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons sang great together. I know every song here, and it always makes me smile when I think about this album.


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