Five years after Mark Olson left the Jayhawks, there should be no more argument about who was the soul of that acclaimed roots-rock band. The Jayhawks have disappeared into a creative void, while Olson has self-released two critically praised solo CDs of earthy Americana.
"My Own Jo Ellen" is Olson's first label debut and possibly his best effort yet. Mainly using the talents of his singer/songwriter wife Victoria Williams and fiddler Razz Russell, Olson lays out 10 poignant tunes that would make Gram Parsons jealous. There's a laid-back, front-porch feel to these songs about farmers and miners; you'll think you're eavesdropping on a family jam session. While guest players flesh out some cuts, the best, like "Meeting in Lone Pine" and "Ben Johnson's Creek," highlight Russell's warm fiddle and Williams' homespun backing vocals. This is a rich addition to Olson's country-folk vision.