The Jayhawks, for all of you who are not familiar with whom they are, let me give you a brief education. They formed in 1985; they have a country southern rock folk sound. Mark Olson who plays acoustic guitar and does vocals along with Gary Louris who plays electric guitar and does vocals as well, they are the two founding members that are still here in 2013 playing and touring. I discovered the band one night on a college radio station in 1992 when they released their major label debut Hollywood Town Hall.
Hollywood Town Hall is the third release for the Jayhawks, the first one for Def American Records. People will remember this cd by the semi hit single, Take me with you (when you go) with its catchy chorus and signature sound that would become the trademark for years to come. To just know that song alone on this cd is a travesty, this is simply an alt-rock classic that deserves to be in the same breath as REMâ€™s early works as being so ahead of its time. This record is more of a mixture of the bandâ€™s early works with where they are heading. Talk about a band that did not sell out for the major label bigwigs, this record is a band with a core alt country rock sound just playing from their hearts and coming across passionately. One thing is for sure, the vocal harmonies this band has are so inspiring and at times just plain awesome and incredible. It was like a match made in heaven with the vocals and instruments, that everything compliments everything else. The lyrics are poetic in a very obscure way, at times a mix of heartbreak and promise together.
It was bands like this and cds like this that made southern rock mixed with alt country hip. This cd to me has so many standout tracks, that you cannot listen to one song without the next. The negative to The Jayhawks, I am not a fan of Olson and Louris solo on this record, I think their harmonies are what make this band so special almost like an alt rock Beach Boys. All in all, I have listened to this cd so many times that I cannot recommend this enough. If you are new to the band, this may not be the best one to start with but it is one to get to.
8 out of 10
The Jayhawks fans may remember that from 92 till the release of Tomorrow the Green Grass in 95 was a time of change for the band as they introduced Karen Grotberg on keyboards and vocals to add another dimension to the harmonies. Like HTH, Green Grass is the cd that people will associate with that one song that got radio play and in this case a very big hit for them called Blue. While fans are so fast to dismiss this cd, in favor of Hollywood Town Hall I think this cd is the right step for the band and their growth. The songs on this cd are heavily country tinged this time around and almost to the point of very poppy and radio friendly. Olson also penned a song for Victoria Williams who he was married to for a while in Miss Williams Guitar that is just a beautifully written song that should have put this band on every playlist. This is another one of those cds that I feel just does not get its just due. The cd while no masterpiece is still heavily recommended for fans of the southern rock style. This band sounds like at times if Hank Williams was the lead singer of The Byrds. While this may not be the cd to start off with if you are new to the band, it is definitely the one that you should own and listen to at least 8 times.
8 out of 10
I will be honest around 1995 and after Green Grass, I remember hearing the news that Olson was leaving the band and being seriously bummed out. Though, Olson is not the band on his own but I know his harmonies were such an important part of this band and their core sound that I was such a diehard fan of.
When I read that last statement I said, I have to say that one listen to Sound of Lies will silence any critic or fan who will bitch about this band not being able to keep going without a core member. Where in the past they sounded heavily country inspired, this cd sounds more Neil Young mixed with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band touches thrown in inspired and what a brilliant record this is. This is the kind of record you put on and before you know it, you are so into it you do not want to stop playing it. I am saying as a Jayhawks fan, this cd is clearly Gary Louris really stepping it all up a notch from the singing, playing and lyrical standpoint. This cd has a message and you can hear it thru each song and that being the Jayhawks are from dead and each song Gary hooks you in and grabs your heart and attention and does not let them go.
This cd I feel captures the beauty and passion of what The Jayhawks give fans live, as you can tell just from listening to the tone and feel of the songs this is a band that will never give up or say die, no matter if they have no label, a major label, or just a van and gear and touring your local K Mart. Sixteen Down is amazing with Matthew Sweet doing backing vocals and how Trouble was not all over rock radio is a crime. Tip my hat to the band for taking the core sound into a new direction and different realm for the band, and made it less folky and made it more poppish rock. This cd is a very amazing record that even non Jayhawks fan could get behind, and if you are new to this band, this would be one of the ones to start with.
9.5 out of 10
In 2011, the word was out that Olson has returned to The Jayhawks, and I for one was skeptical, because I was such a fan of Sound of Lies and Smile, that how would it sound since they have not recorded new material in almost 16 years.
Mockingbird Time for me is a sad record; I cannot listen to this record without crying like a little kid not getting the last piece of cake. Olson and Louris have not lost a step, in fact they gained some. This is the record, the fans have wanted and the critics have prayed for by news of the reunion. This is the greatest cd by one of my favorite bands. She Walks in So Many Ways, sounds like it was inspired by a mixture of The Hollies and The Byrds. This song has made my best singles of the year chart two years in a row that should tell you all you need to know. The lyric that just hits me in that song is â€œAll things are just as they should beâ€ which makes you think that is about the band and where they are at right now. High Water Blues and Hey Mr. Man really sounds like a band that is hungry and thinks it has something to prove. From the ballads to the heavily rocking southern twang that is injected all over this cd, makes this cd such a must for any music fan.
If you never heard any other cd by this band before, this cd is a must have. If you are a Jayhawks fan and are worried about this cd being as bad as other comeback records in recent years, fear not I was in that boat as well, within the first three songs you are going to think they never were apart, they sound like are ready to take the sound to new heights, and with this cd they really capture what makes this band so iconic to me.
10 out of 10