For many people, THE JAYHAWKS were one of the initial gateway drugs to the Americana and alt-country scene, particularly with their 1992 classic Hollywood Town Hall with its chiming guitars, extraordinary harmonies and classic songwriting. And as time and events have reshaped them and the personnel, they have still retained not only their originality but also their identity. Even after a few decades. no one sounds like the Jayhawks.
The band may still be led by singer/songwriter/guitarist GARY LOURIS, but their new album XOXO is a proper band album with proper tunes. So where does ‘XOXO’ stand in the canon? Just listen to the first few bars and you’ll know that it stands up very well indeed. Things have changed, but not that much and that is no bad thing.
Perhaps most indicative of XOXO’s spirit is “Illuminate,” a co-write by all three male members of the band. It’s a delicate and shimmering examination of idolatry and self-expression that builds and builds until the gorgeous conclusion. “This Forgotten Town“ a composition by Louris and bassist Marc Perlman, starts with acoustic guitar, Louris’s careworn voice, sparkling piano, a chorus to die for and suddenly you are in classic Jayhawks track complete with a fuzzed guitar break and beautiful coda that should last twice as long. For the seasoned ‘hawks follower the significance of drummer Tim O’Reagan sharing the lead vocals with Gary Louris is not lost. Here is an album where control has been loosened by Louris and the band members have had a riot with their contributions. There has always been collaboration to a degree, but Louris’s songwriting has always been so strong that material has always been fed through his filter but O’Reagan, Perlman and keyboardist Karen Grotberg all have contributed very strong material here and it pays off in spades.
The album unfolds beautifully after the opener, and their are callbacks to classic sounds, both theirs and others, all over the place. “Dogtown Days“ is an O’Reagan rocker that has the brio of “Tailspin’” from The ‘hawks 2003 album Rainy Day Music. “Living in a Bubble“ is all Beatles and Harry Nilsson with its joyful piano motif. “Ruby” is a Grotberg ballad both affecting and reflective, a simple piano-led piece that speaks of early Rickie Lee Jones or mid-70s Fleetwood Mac with its arrangements. “Homecoming” harks back to the arrangements of Smile-era Jayhawks with its chiming chord progressions. “Society Pages“ is another O’Reagan composition, all indie-rock and charming in its apparent vitality.
XOXO will satisfy the long term fans who came on board with Hollywood Town Hall, and serves as the perfect introduction of a new fan to a rough-hewn-gem-studded catalog. There are no laurels rested on here, in fact, there’s some real raising of the game.
Horizon Records will have XOXO in-stock this Friday, July 10th. Stop by and pick it up or order it at our webstore right HERE. And we’ve got more classic Jayhawks in the house, too!