Playing Gram Parsons to Williams' Emmylou Harris, Olson traffics in a homespun blend of country, rock, gospel and folk, uncannily evoking the plaintive vocals and spare arrangements of an early Neil Young ("Diamond Davey" and "Rainbow of Your Heart") and the Americana anthems of The Band ("Linda Lee"). You've got to love these guys for their optimism--Olson's day job includes teaching special ed, and Williams is valiantly dealing with the early stages of multiple sclerosis. Maybe that's why they can sing, "Don't I love my summer sunshine!" ("Letter From Africa") and "Honeybees, honeybees, in every tree there's honeybees" ("Walking Through Nevada") without the trace of a smirk.
Like the Joshua trees within view of their desert home studio--so named for their silhouetted resemblance to the prophet with upraised arms--the Dippers stand as supplicants to God, nature, and mankind's best intentions. How can we let them down?
Mark Olson and the OHRCD appear at The Brewery in Raleigh on Feb. 8.