Gather ’round, children, and Pappy will tell you a story about the old days, when there was a band out of Minneapolis called the Jayhawks. They were “off da hook” as you kids say today… do you kids still say that? Well, whatever term you use for “amazing” or “fantastic” or “mind-blowing” – that’s what the Jayhawks were. They had two – count ’em – two lead singers and songwriters, Gary Louris and Mark Olson. Sometimes Gary would sing lead and Mark would do harmony vocals. Sometimes the roles were reversed. Sometimes they’d sing together. In any permutation, the songs were pure Alt-Country/Americana bliss. Listen to this one and try not to get goosebumps – it isn’t possible:
The Jayhawks musical stew was a bit of the Byrds, a dollop of Neil Young, a pinch of The Louvin Brothers, a sprinkling of the Beatles. Speaking of the Beatles, Mark met a woman, Victoria Williams (an amazing artist in her own right), fell in love, got married and left the band. Yoko Part II? Oh no! Mark did albums with Victoria as the Original Harmony Creekdippers and they were good. Gary and the rest of the Jayhawk band carried on with the Jayhawks name, and they put out even more albums of pure pop perfection (say that three times fast).
End of story? Not quite, kiddies. Gary and Mark did get back together. They toured in ’05 and recorded a new Jayhawks album in 2011. Time heals all wounds, right? Sorry, this is not the happy ending you were expecting. Gary got hooked on stuff he should’ve just said no to, and Mark got upset about songwriting credits and money.
But the Gary-Louris-post-Olson Jayhawks are back, touring with the 1997 lineup (Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, Tim O’Reagan, Karen Grotberg and Kraig Johnson) and playing mostly songs from the three gem-like albums released in that era: Sound of Lies, Smile and Rainy Day Music. And I’ll be damned (pardon my French, kids) if they don’t sound fantastic. I saw them in Indy a few weeks back and fell in love with their songs all over again, for all the right reasons. The band is amazing, with Tim and Karen and Kraig doing great work on vocals, and Mark, who has been there through thick and thin, holding down the fort.
Maybe they were never big stars… they were actually closer to Big Star… but they’re big stars in my universe.
That’s the end of this little tale, children. Now get the hell off my lawn!