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.

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