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The Jayhawks
Mockingbird Time
Rounder Records
www.jayhawksofficial.com


Starting in the early 1990's with The Jayhawks aka The Bunkhouse Album, the Minnesota based band The Jayhawks stormed the gates of the rock 'n' roll template, along with bands like Uncle Tupelo and Soul Asylum, blending their love of country music and Gram Parsons' style "Cosmic American Music" to create a whole new genre: Alt-country. Through classics like Tomorrow the Green Grass, Hollywood Town Hall and Rainy Day Music, The Jayhawks laid the groundwork for much of the country-inspired rock of today. Then, main songwriters and driving forces behind the band Greg Louris and Mark Olsen parted ways. Sure, they both released solo albums during the split but the products are much like solo records from Keith and Mick; okay, but not the same.

Now, we have The Jayhawks back and running with Mockingbird Time.

The harmonies between Louris and Olsen have the fullness and warmth of a long lost friend; they embrace the listener in a blanket of talent that has been so sorely missed. There have been subtle changes in their sound in the last sixteen years, like the body of a wine shifting as it matures. Instead of resting on the sound that made them famous, Olsen and Louris have ventured into territory only previously touched upon in their music. Big Star quality power pop is fully represented with "Cinnamon Love" while "Black Eyed Susan" gives a nod of the head to mountain music.

It's been more than sixteen years since their last album together but their writing styles, the flawless joining of country lament and the harder edge of rock has not dulled; Mockingbird Time is a classic Jayhawks with just enough variance to make it new and fresh. Whether its "She Walks in So Many Ways," "Black Eyed Susan," "Tiny Arrows" or "Pouring Rain at Dawn," Mockingbird Time is an album that fits nicely into the record collections of the lovers of current bands like Dawes, The Avett Brothers, The Civil Wars, or the old diehards that worshipped The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, or The International Submarine Band back in the golden days of country rock before The Eagles took it over and, in my mind, destroyed it.

Mockingbird Time may not be the perfect album that fans of the Jayhawks have been waiting for all these years but it's a wonderful piece that grows on you with every listen. Let's hope they decide to do more and that it won't take 16 more years to get around to it.

-Danny R. Phillips

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