Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Jayhawks: Big Star

I'm gonna be a big star someday... (The Jayhawks - Big Star)

Don't feel too bad. I sort of missed it too. The Jayhawks were a tremendous band, but never really made the impact that they should have. I didn't get on board until 2000 with the release of Smile, but with last years Music From the North Country - The Jayhawks Anthology release I have been revisiting this terrific band.

Here's a quick summary about the band. The Jayhawks formed in Minneapolis, MN in the mid-80's. The band consisted of Gary Louris (guitar & vocals), Mark Olson (guitar & vocals), Mark Perlman (bass & vocals) and Norm Rogers (drums). The Jayhawks music was sort of an off-shoot of the Flying Burrito Brothers/Byrds; kind of country rock, but a better description would be roots rock. Their early sound was marked by the fine harmony singing of Louris and Olson.

After a couple of small label recordings the Jayhawks signed with Def American. Their major label debut was 1992's Hollywood Town Hall which featured the song Waiting For the Sun. The song got quite a bit airplay and the video was in MTV's rotation. Then in 1995, the band released Tomorrow the Green Grass, which included their classic songs Blue and I'd Run Away. Another prominent song, Miss Williams Guitar; a song about singer/songwriter Victoria Williams. By the end of the year, Mark Olson left the band so that he could spend time and record with his future wife, Victoria Williams.

With the dynamic of the band changed,Gary Louris and company continued onward. The band now included Karen Grothberg (on piano and vocals), Tim O'Reagan (drums), Kraig Johnson (guitar) along with Louris and Perlman. The bands next release 1997's Sound of Lies, a great straight ahead under-rated rock album. In 2000 the Jayhawks went in a slight new direction with the Bob Ezrin produced popier Smile. The album featured new sounds for the Jayhawks, including synthesizers, drum loops, but enough harmony singing to make Brian Wilson smile. A New York Times critic said it best with the question "What If You Made a Classic and No One Cared? If the band didn't make their big breakout after this one, it may not happen.

The Jayhawks released their final album to-date in 2004, the excellent Rainy Day Music, a more acoustic/folky style. The album really showcased the writing and singing tallents of Gary Louris.

In a perfect world, the Jayhawks would have became the big stars that sang about in 1997.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

We Want Monkeys!

My propeller won't spin and I can't get it started on my own... (Arctic Monkeys - My Propeller)

My computer has been sick and I am a bit behind blogging. I think I found a cure; there's an amazing amount of information (and misinformation) on the world wide web.

Well to catch up, last weekend I (along with my beautiful daughter) ventured to Covington, KY, just across the river from Cincinnati, OH to see the English band Arctic Monkeys. The concert site was The Madison Theater, a small theater with no seats except in the balcony. We made our way to the front row in the balcony.

A band from San Francisco called Sleepy Sun opened the show. Their sound was sort of 2 parts Pink Floyd and 1 part Grateful Dead with a dash of Jefferson Airplane. Sleepy Sun featured nice harmony singing from it's 2 main singers, a male and female.

The Arctic Monkeys took the stage around 9 or so with the familiar guitar sounds of Dance Little Liar. The Monkeys rolled through material from their three albums including Brianstorm, I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor and Potion Approaching. The crowd was appreciative, especially in the pit area where hands waved, fists pumped and crowd surfing started at every opportunity. My highlights were Crying Lightning and My Propeller from 2009's Humbug and Fluorescent Adolescent from 2007's My Worst Nightmare. At the end of the show at around 11 the crowd was left chanting WE WANT MONKEYS! All in all an excellent show.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Prine Time

Radio's on, windows rolled up and my mind's rolled down... (John Prine - Long Monday)

I got some exciting John Prine news today. First of all John is releasing a new live cd in May called In Person & On Stage! This will be John's third live cd, including 1988's John Prine Live and 1997's Live On Tour. The new disc includes some live tunes from John's last original cd 2005's Fair and Square and some exciting duets, including the hilarious In Spite of Ourself with Iris Dement and Angel From Montgomery with Emmylou Harris. To wet your appetite the song She is My Everything can be downloaded from here.

If that is not enought to satisfy your John Prine needs, Oh Boy Records is also releasing a John Prine tribute cd on June 22 entitled Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine. The contributing artists include Old Crow Medicine Show, Drive-By Truckers, Justin Townes Earle, Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket & The Avett Brothers, among others.