Archive for the The Jayhawks Category

Weekend YouTube: Jayhawks & Jompson Brothers

Posted in Jompson Brothers Band, The Jayhawks on January 22, 2011 by AmericanaPulse

I spent a good deal of time this week listening to the reissued and expanded versions of two classic Jayhawks records.  Tomorrow the Green Grass and Hollywood Town Hall both got the special treatment this week in preparation of the release of a brand new Jayhawks record in 2011.

Here are two classic Jayhawks tracks to get you through the weekend.

One from Hollywood Town Hall…

And one from Tomorrow the Green Grass

On a completely unrelated note…

I finally got to see The Jompson Brothers play last weekend when they made a stop in Knoxville. This is the new project from Chris Stapleton, formerly of The Steeldrivers.  I’ll have some more thoughts on The Jompsons in a few days.  In the meantime, here’s a vid of their show in Knoxville.

Top 10 Americana Albums of the Decade: #9 – Rainy Day Music by The Jayhawks

Posted in The Jayhawks, Top 10 Americana Albums: 2000-2009 on November 16, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

The Jayhawks are one of the most respected acts to come out of the early days of the alt-country movement. Led by Gary Louris and Mark Olson, The Jayhwaks won a legion of fans with their Byrds inspired jangle pop/country sound and their extremely tight vocal harmonies. The formula worked to perfection on three wonderful albums… 1989’s Blue Earth, 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall, and 1995’s Tomorrow the Green Grass.

Despite the band’s success, founding member Olson left the group following the Tomorrow the Green Grass tour to pursue other projects. With the departure of his songwriting and vocal partner, Louris could have called it quits as well, but decided to keep the band together and keep releasing albums under the Jayhawks name.
Critical reviews were split on The Jayhawks first two post-Olson releases… 1997’s Sound of Lies and 2000’s Smile. On these releases, Louris seemed to abandon the group’s signature rootsy blend to explore a sound that drew from more pop and rock influences. Without Olson by his side, Louris took the opportunity to experiment a bit and try to expand his sound. He did so even while many fans were waiting and and hoping for a return to The Jayhawks sound of old.
In 2003, that return came in the form of the album Rainy Day Music.
The album’s opening track, “Stumbling Through the Dark,” begins with a finger picked riff that clearly recalls the band’s Byrdsian influences before settling into a loping country beat. The band’s trademark harmonies reappear here as well. This time, however, Louris blends with drummer Tim O’Reagan instead of Olson.
The next track is “Tailspin,” a song that adds an element of rock to the proceedings all while still featuring banjo (played by Bernie Leadon) and steel guitar. This track, along with the folksy rockers “The Eyes of Sarahjane” and “You Look So Young” go the furthest to remind me of the sound The Jayhawks so masterfully captured on Hollywood Town Hall.
The quieter moments on the disc play well here too. “All the Right Reasons” features harmony vocals from alt-popster Matthew Sweet (who also co-wrote “Stumbling Through the Dark”) and is a touching love song without being saccharine. The album closing trio of “Tampa to Tulsa,” “Will I See You in Heaven,” and “Stumbling Trough the Dark (Acoustic)” also provide a nice easy bookend to the proceedings.
Rainy Day Music doesn’t quite stand up to the level of the work The Jayhawks were doing when Olson and Louris were still a pair, but it does hearken back to that sound. This was also one of the albums that was very instrumental in shaping my appreciation of the Americana genre in the early part of this decade. For that reason, it belongs in my Top 10.
The Jayhawks: Tailspin (Buy Album)
The Jayhawks: All the Right Reasons (Buy Album)

Notes & Ways to Pass the Time While Remodeling

Posted in Mountain Stage, The Jayhawks on April 4, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

***Before I get into today’s post, I need to give you a link to something cool that popped up on the internet yesterday. I was recently interviewed by a web-zine called The Alternate Root for a new feature they started this month that focuses on music blogs and music bloggers. I am honored to be the first blogger chosen to be featured in that space and hope I can live up to the praise. You can read the interview by following this link and turning the magazine to page 16.

***Of course, I feel a little guilty that the interview is posted during a time when most of my free time is being devoted to something other than this blog. I’ve been spending 12-14 hour days working on my new house to try and make it a livable space. That leaves little time for blogging, but (as I wrote earlier this week) it provides lots of time to listen to music. (I’m on the air at WDVX tonight… so that gives me enough time to rush out this post.)

Today, I spent a good deal of time listening to The Mountain Stage podcast archives. The Mountain Stage is a syndicated radio concert series that tapes in Charleston, West Virginia. I used to go to tapings all the time when I lived in Kentucky (about a two-hour drive from Charleston), and the show helped introduce me to some of my favorite artists. I saw Kasey Chambers, Rodney Crowell, Dar Williams, and James McMurtry all for the first time in Charleston. I saw lots of other great acts there too… Guster, Sam Bush, Martin Sexton, Tift Merritt, Joseph Arthur, Jessi Alexander, The Mutual Admiration Society, Grant Lee Phillips, and several others that I know I’m forgetting right now.

The Mountain Stage isn’t on the air in Knoxville, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed listening to the show. The good news is that you can listen to archived shows on their website and download podcasts on iTunes. Today, I just cued up a few podcasts in iTunes and listened to great performances from Patty Griffin, Luke Doucet, Sarah Borges, Eric Bibb, and The Red Stick Ramblers among others. The show never disappoints.

***Late last week, I found myself with a little spare time one morning and made my way into one of the local record shops to snoop through their $1 CD bin. It’s the sort of place where you will find tons of unremarkable discs that you wouldn’t want if they were given to you. Sometimes though… there are a few treasures in with the trash.

That’s exactly what happened on this trip as I found a used promotional copy of The Jayhawks’ 2000 album Smile… for a buck. It’s the only Jayhawks album I had never heard, and one I had always avoided buying due to some unfavorable reviews I had read way back when I was first discovering the band. I also was largely unimpressed with 1997’s Sound of Lies, the band’s first offering after the departure of co-leader Marc Olson, and I had always heard that the two albums were similar in their departure from the band’s signature sound.

After giving Smile a spin, I found that the main points of those reviews are accurate… the band does trade a bit of its early, rootsy sound for an edgier pop/rock vibe. It’s also clear that Gary Louris was trying to take the band in a different direction without Olson. In this case, however, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. Smile tosses out the melancholy of Sound of Lies and replaces it with joy… as the titles of the two albums might suggest.

Sure… it’s pop music… but “pop” doesn’t always have to be a four letter word. I wish I hadn’t waited 5+ years to finally buy this album.

Here’s a track from Smile that showcases that pop polish while still retaining a little rootsy rust.

The Jayhawks: I’m Going to Make You Love Me (Buy Album)

Essential Albums: Hollywood Town Hall by the Jayhawks

Posted in Essential Albums, The Jayhawks on July 26, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

I found this item last week while poking around on Paste Magazine’s website.

Remember a few years back when Gary Louris and Mark Olson of the Jayhawks reunited for a concert tour and supposedly recorded some new material? It seems that new material will finally be released this September (EDIT: The release date now seems to be January ’09) from Hacktone (New West) Records. The CD will be titled Ready for the Flood and was recorded in January of 2007 with producer Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. The album will also feature appearances from Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles. It’s the first full album Louris and Olson have released together since Olson left the Jayhawks after the release of 1995’s Tomorrow the Green Grass. The project will not be released under the Jayhawks name, but this is good news nevertheless.

While I am excited about the prospect of new music from the duo that powered one of my favorite acts… this post is about one of my favorite albums. Hollywood Town Hall was released by The Jayhawks in 1992 on Def American Records. I mentioned this album briefly in last week’s post on Tift Merritt, but it really needs its own post.

The first thing that stands out to you when listening to this album are the vocals of Gary Louis and Mark Olson. It isn’t so much that either of them truly captivate you on their own, although both have serious vocal chops. It’s the sounds that are formed when their voices join together. Subtle harmonies soar through the chorus of each song, and shared lead vocals pepper several tracks. On “Sister Cry” the voices diverge through the chorus with Olson chiming with a counter melody overtop of Louris, who is singing the main line. When the chorus ends, the voices blend together again to share the next verse. At times they blend so perfectly together, it’s hard to tell that two people are singing. It’s a phenomenon that Jayhawks fans refer to as “The Univoice.”

The album shows the influence of legendary acts such as Gram Parsons and the Byrds, R.E.M., and CSNY. It also shares ground with contemporaries such as Wilco and Son Volt. This is surely what Gram Parsons envisioned when he began practicing what he called “Cosmic American Music” in the 60s. Elements of pop, rock, and country blend seamlessly together under a fuzz of Rickenbackers and inspired harmonies to create a classic sound and a classic album.

It will be nice to see if Louris and Olson can recapture that classic sound on their new project. But while we’re getting Ready for the Flood, it’s nice to know that we can keep “Waiting for the Sun.”

The Jayhawks: Waiting for the Sun (Buy Album)
The Jayhawks: Sister Cry (Buy Album)