Mark Olson, "Many Colored Kite"

73 Billboard Rating

Mark Olson asks at the beginning of his second solo album: "What would you do . . . if you lost everything good?" This braces us for another heart-rending rumination along the lines of 2007's transformative "The Salvation Blues." But that's not the story on "Many Colored Kite," as the Jayhawks co-frontman strikes a more healing and optimistic tone across these 11 songs. It's buoyed by his relationship with Ingunn Ringvold (who co-wrote two of the tracks) and also likely by his 2009 reunion with Jayhawks partner Gary Louris on "Ready for the Flood." "Many Colored Kite" flits among moods and perspectives, unified by Olson's keening tenor and Beau Raymond's minimalist production. "Little Bird of Freedom" (with Jolie Holland) and "Wind and Rain" recall the Jayhawks' blend of alt-rock and Americana, while "Morning Dove," "Bluebell Song," "More Hours" and the Neil Young-like "Scholastica" explore folkier flavors, and such string-laden tracks as "Your Life Beside Us" and "Beehive" recall psychedelic '60s pop. Olson is still processing some pain, but there are plenty of bright moments.