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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