I spoke of my love for Ryan Adams a few albums ago. You can thank the Jayhawks for him. The Jayhawks came along in the early 90s alongside the legendary Sun Volt, who would later spin out Jeff Tweedy, who is the heart and soul of Wilco. But I always preferred the Jayhawks, who seemed less dark and sang is those beautiful harmonies that make me want to weep.
The Jayhawks could have been big. As it was, they rarely toured, due to Mark Olson staying home with his ill then-wife, singer-songwriter Victoria Williams, who has battle Multiple Sclerosis and has had the music industry rally around her admirably over the years. The last couple of years have seen Olson and Louris come together on occasion, and the story is they are now holed up writing a new Jayhawks album. It’ll be hard to top this lovely slice of sweet harmonies and country twang.
The band’s best known track is the lovely “Blue”, where those sweet vocals meet up with some subtle guitars to create a hymn. With melancholic strings picking up and lyrics about being abandoned, the song creates a cocoon of warm sounds to counteract the sadness of the words.
“Miss Williams’ Guitar” is about Victoria Williams, Olson’s then-girlfriend, a quirky singer-songwriter whom wrote some lovely songs of her own over the years. It’s a love song, as in love with her as it is with her stage self.
There is the pick and twang of “Ten Little Kids”, the Grand Funk cover “Bad Time”, the chugging “I’d Run Away”, the poignant “Red’s Song”, and the gorgeous “Over My Shoulder” all appear on this record. The songs are all sweet mid tempo country inflected rock songs, all about love won, love loss, and regret. It feels like an old flannel blanket that you curl up under to read Flannery O’Connor books.
The one thing I have yet to mention is the addition of pianist Karen Grotberg, which rounds out the bands sound by giving the Lomax touches a bit of fairy dust, an otherness that was lacking on their excellent but more traditional previous records. She added an element that is intangible.
The good news is, this album is being reissued in January, 2011. Do yourself a favour and go buy it. You will love it.