Sixth album from California's desert-dwelling husband-and-wife team

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Mark Olson & The Creekdippers – Mystic Theatre

Their best record since 1999’s Zola And The Tulip Tree; Mark Olson and Victoria Williams’ rustic marriages of rural folk, western swing and bluegrass still bubble with contentment. Neither restless nor self-destructive, the ‘Dippers are uniquely postmodern US roots musicians: it’s the sound of what happens once you’re done with the Great Lost Highway. Olson’s “No Water No Wood” and “Rockslide” are open love letters to Williams, equating her to rare south-facing blooms and slivers of light on moonlit rooftops, but it’s romantic?never mawkish?and the music urgent and skittish. Like the thrill of the chase still burns. His musicianship, too?particularly on the soft piano of “Wood In Broken Hills” and the dulcimer delight of “Thirty Miles Of Petrified Logs”?is a joy, coloured by Mike Russell’s jittery violin and Ray Woods’ imaginative percussion.

Victoria’s written contributions may be less (three), but they’re the ones that startle, her helium chirp sounding like something forever teetering on stilts. “It Don’t Bother Me” is a zen-like celebration of the outdoor life over sparkling banjo and ghostly saw, the jerky “Bath Song” finds its girl protagonist unwilling to scrub up until her overseas paramour comes home, and the creepy-sad “Betsy Dupree” tells the tale of the blackwater suicide of a woman scorned, lying floating “in a big old inner tube/Orange lipstick on her… She looked like a party”. Extraordinary.