The Jayhawks: Mockingbird Time (Universal)

 |   |  1 min read

The Jayhawks: Pouring Rain at Dawn
The Jayhawks: Mockingbird Time (Universal)

Something to speculate on. What if John Lennon had quit the Beatles around the time of Help!/Rubber Soul when it was clear he and Paul McCartney were going in different writing and personal directions.

Say he'd gone off into more personal and introspective writing and Macca had steered the band along a more pop route?

No Revolver for a kick-off.

In a sense something similar happened to the Jayhawks, the band that seemed to define early Americana in the grunge years while most people's attention was on flannel shirts out of the Pacific Northwest or Britpop.

On their major label albums Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass the pairing of songwriters Gary Louris and Mark Olson were in fine harmony (literally) although each was pulling in a slightly different direction. And then Olson quit and Louris (broadly) steered the band into a more pop path.

In the past decade the two have played and toured together acoustically and recorded the album Ready for the Flood two years ago. The stars were aligned for the Jayhawks to reconvene, as indeed they have done.

Mockingbird Time delivers all their familiar tropes of harmonies, slightly wistful Americana which refers to Buffalo Springfield and Byrds as much as acoustic Neil Young, but you can still hear those separate interests -- the string-coloured slightlydelic Beatles '66 opener Hide Your Colors and Louris' production favours embellishment (strings) to beef up what are sometimes rather thin, if enjoyable, songs (Closer to Your Side, the title track, Black Eyed Susan).

Those harmonies are still swoon-inducing in places and on material like Tiny Arrows they sound like America under the influence of the Band. Its hard to escape the Anglophile country-rock heart-tug of She Walks in So Many Way and pop throb of High Water Blues with its power chords. Or the finger-picking Pouring Rain at Dawn.

But equally Stand Out in the Rain (English folk creeping in) and Cinnamon Love (Buffalo Springfield) sound like a band settling for what they knew rather than stretching out with the years of other experiences behind them.

So in that it is an uneven return which offers the comfort of the familiar and so will hardly disappoint those for whom this is a long awaited reunion.

But this isn't their Revolver or even Rubber Soul.

Maybe their A Hard Day's Night again, as it were.

Mark Olson is interviewed about this album here.

Like the sound of this? Then check out this.

Share It

Your Comments

The Riverboat Captain - Sep 5, 2011

Their Music From The North Country anthology is one of my most played discs over the last couple of years.. a terrific distillation of what The Jayhawks are about. Looking forward to hearing more of this one.

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Sandy Mill: A Piece of Me (She's Boss)

Sandy Mill: A Piece of Me (She's Boss)

It has probably been said by everyone writing about his album but it bears repeating: Sandy Mill is the singer whose voice you've often heard (with SJD, Neil Finn, Dave Dobbyn, Don McGlashan and... > Read more

Various: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Tipitina's/Shock)

Various: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Tipitina's/Shock)

In the days after Hurricane Katrina it was believed that this great New Orleans r'n'b singer had been washed away. Fortunately he had been rescued although his home, like much of that wonderful... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Stan Getz Quartet: Getz at the Gate; Live at the Village Gate, Nov 26, 1961 (Verve)

The Stan Getz Quartet: Getz at the Gate; Live at the Village Gate, Nov 26, 1961 (Verve)

And here's another gift and “lost” jazz album from the vaults in the manner of last year's Charlie Haden/Brad Mehldau live album, Coltrane's studio session and live recordings of... > Read more

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: The Ultimate Collection (1998 compilation)

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: The Ultimate Collection (1998 compilation)

Before the Supremes overtook them – on the charts and in Berry Gordy's affections – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were the seminal girl group on Gordy's emerging Motown label out of... > Read more