Mark Olson (co-founder of The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold invite listeners to join them for a fascinating musical journey on 'Magdalen Accepts the Invitation,' due out June 5 via Fiesta Red Records.
The husband-and-wife duo's third collaboration mines a "Death Valley isolation chamber folk/pop sound" that is awash with darkness and light. American Songwriter is premiering a track here.
JOSHUA TREE, Calif. — A roller coaster in a long-closed Lake Minnetonkaamusement 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 5, 2020 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. As Olson describes it:
The recording sessions occurred during the heat of summer at Thermometer Shelter Studios, located not too far from Death Valley National Park. Olson admits that the experience was not so nice all the time. “You really begin to miss family and friends, community with one another, and college bookstores. The music begins to ask you something at this point: Am I strong? Can I do this all alone? Where am I going?”
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.
Olson’s track-by-track notes:
Pipestone I Won’t Be Back – Pipestone Minnesota is a town made of Sioux Quartzite buildings from the Catlinite Pipestone quarry location nearby. We visited the Pipestone National Monument on our way home from a tour one year, and continued on a two-lane highway along the Niobrara River through north Nebraska where we canoed and collected fossils.
Then You’ll Find the Morning – I wrote this on the porch we have in Joshua Tree that faces directly east. Starting in June the evenings here are super warm and livable because of the shadow. I like to play guitar out here. I keep reading about bee problems and imagined that bee poison reaching a person’s well water is pretty much the end.
Excelsior Park – The old amusement park on Lake Minnetonka. It represents danger in some ways because of the scary high rollercoaster and the house of mirrors. My Dad was from a farm and this was not a place he was ever going to take us. If we wanted to go on rides it would be after a daylong excursion to the animal barns at the State Fair.
Christina Hi! – We wrote this song in the summer after going to the art classes and specifically working on writing a Qanon song. I was thinking about how easy it is to get involved with the wrong friends that are into derelict ideas and how that can affect a person’s life.
April in Your Cloud Garden – I think overwhelming stuff can put a person in a cloud garden, where you escape the reality and start to live in your imagination, and watering and tending a place that seems better. This is important and it can work, but then someday you have to come down from the cloud I guess.
31 Patience Games – I wrote this in South Africa where Ingunn and I were married. We were there two separate times for six months total. We ended up in the mountains in the only hop-growing region of the country. It was foggy with lots of wild animals and streams and amazing people. It was really nice and sometimes we went to the beach. I saw the biggest crane in Africa flying over our cabin way up high in the air. So many memories. If there is a time of a person’s life that is the best — this was it for me.
Black Locust – I mail-ordered for a package of Black Locust tree seeds and planted them in the desert yard. Some of the trees have grown tall and they have nice white flowers. You need to place yourself in a place where your soul can grow and not be limited by gossip mongers and barbarian event manipulators. Starting your life over by planting trees by seed, with many of nature’s and technology’s ways against you and your babe, is where this song is coming from.
Elmira’s Fountain – Here is a song Ingunn and I started in Vanadzor, Armenia about a real fountain where we would meet our host, Elmira. She would take us to Orthodox churches and cool parks. This song made the album because of the positive hopeful energy I feel about the lyrics and also the idea of drinking out of wild rivers. We would stop and drink from springs in the mountains, but drinking from rivers would require another step on our part. We swam in Lake Sevon, which is very deep, cold and somewhat dangerous, but sinking in the sand by the water’s edge worked for us.
Silent Mary – This song started after listening to the classical music that made its way into early horror movies. I found some soundtracks where I pretty much scared myself into not watching the movies. I like the drama and lighting atmosphere though, so that worked well for the outline of my writing start.
Children of the Street Car – We would stop at the most old-fashioned, well-stocked small town utility store on earth in Lucerne Valley, and wander around the aisles to escape the heat. I started working on many of these lyrical lines in that store like the “fog minus time,” which I meant to mean current day San Francisco minus time equals the heyday of experimental folk rock — which in a way, along with Death Valley isolation chamber folk/pop, is a good way to describe our musical stating points.
Mark Olson was born and raised in Minnesota by a family of mostly farmers and schoolteachers. Predominately a self-taught musician, Olson is well known for his use of alternate tunings and two-part unison singing that then breaks into harmony. He co-founded the Jayhawks in 1985 in Minneapolis. Olson was a principal songwriter, singer and guitarist for the band’s self-titled debut album, as well as later releases Blue Earth, Hollywood Town Hall, Tomorrow the Green Grass, and Mockingbird Time. Upon leaving the Jayhawks, he formed the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers in 1997 with Victoria Williams. That band, later called the Creekdippers, made seven albums.
comes from Larvik, Norway (also the home of Thor Heyerdahl, the famed explorer and Kon Tiki author). Blessed with a naturally beautiful voice, she began singing in public at a very young age. Ringvold hears music in her heart and writes emotionally moving string arrangements. She studied the Armenian Qanon with Arax, a master musician in Vanadzor, Armenia, where she learned how to harness great strength in her performance style. She has released four solo albums in addition to her collaborations with Olson.
Olson and Ringvold live now in the California desert, and they tour off and on internationally almost every year.
Pre-sale link: https://markolson.bandcamp.com/releases