Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Jayhawks

I'm not sure when I first heard The Jayhawks. It seems likely that WXRT in Chicago would have played "Waiting For The Sun" when it first came out and that was my first exposure to the band. It also seems likely that I read a positive review of Hollywood Town Hall in Rolling Stone, since that was where I did most of my music reading back in 1992. Whatever the case, I bought that album and it quickly became a favorite. They were at the vanguard of "alternative country," though I'm still not sure what that means (and it wasn't anything they claimed themselves). They had guitars, both acoustic and electric, and harmonies. Maybe their songs sounded country and maybe not but I was buying the music.

Their next album was 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass and I was all over it when it came out. More great music. And then, word came that Mark Olson had left the band. Well, that was the end of The Jayhawks. Or rather, it was for me. Sound of Lies came out in 1997 and I didn't buy it.

Meanwhile, I become a fan of Golden Smog, for which Gary Louris is a main songwriter and contributor. I like his stuff quite a bit and think that maybe I was hasty in my dismissal of The Jayhawks as uninteresting with only him at the helm. Still, I do nothing.

Cut to 2000 and I'm listening to WXRT. I hear a new song by The Jayhawks and it sounds great. On the strength of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," I pick up their new album Smile. I am once again and ongoing fan of the band (I had still listened to the previous two albums over the years, no doubt about it).

At some point I find a used copy of Sound of Lies and pick it up. I wonder how I could have let it pass me by all those years ago. It's a brilliant record and one of the most underrated of the 90s, hands down.

When 2003's Rainy Day Music rolls around, I pick it up the day it comes out and love it. Turns out it's their swan song and I am terribly disappointed. The members continue to put out music, like drummer Tim O'Reagan's gorgeous solo album in 2006. Louris pops up here and there, notably on another Golden Smog record and then his solo debut Vagabonds last year. Early in 2009, Olson and Louris reteam and give us Ready For the Flood. It's not a Jayhawks record but it doesn't matter - they sound great together.

Still, that's not the end of the story. Today saw the release of a Jayhawks anthology, Music From the North Country. I, of course, bought the deluxe edition with a second disc of rarities and a DVD (however, it is still snaking its way to me through the mail). I can't wait to dig in. There are also plans for reissues of all their albums (and you know, I never did get around to buying their debut, Blue Earth; a fact I will have to remedy).

In celebration, I am going to be taking a look at their catalogue over the next few months. I plan to cover not only the songs from the albums but also take a look at the side projects and solo albums as well. It will not be complete by any means; for starters, I've never picked up any of Olson's solo records. But I'm going to do the best I can two or three times a week to celebrate a band I wholeheartedly love. Please come along for the ride.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great idea. Matt Perpetua did something similar with Pavement's catalog. I'll be reading.