The Jayhawks: Mockingbird Time

The Jayhawks just may be the most likable band of all time. That’s not to say that any of their albums are really my all-time favorites, but the irresistable joy and warmth of their music always makes me feel better for having listened to it. The same is true of their new album, Mockingbird Time. Set for release on September 20th via Rounder Records and reuniting the band with founding members Gary Louris and Mark Olson, the new disc continues The Jayhawks’ signature friendly folk-rock sound.

“Hide Your Colors,” the anthem of encouragement which opens the album, shines with the kind of gentle, jubilant light of The Grateful Dead’s “Sugar Magnolia” or The Beatles’ “Free as a Bird.”

The rest of the disc doesn’t thrill me quite as much, but the fact remains that hearing the music of The Jayhawks is like receiving an unexpected call from an old, dear friend. You’re always smilling by the time you hang up.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below…

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The Jayhawks Official Site

Carrie Rodriguez: She Ain’t Me

She Ain’t Me will be released on August 5th. The organic folk style of this sophomore release from singer-songwriter, classically trained violinist, and Chip Taylor collaborator Carrie Rodriguez is a slight departure from the twangier country sound of her debut Seven Angels on a Bicycle. Gary Louris of The Jayhawks co-wrote several songs on the album, which features guest vocals by Lucinda Williams and Aoife O’Donovan of Crooked Still.

don’t a murder of crows on a maple roost hungry at night?
don’t loose flocks soar over the rooftops in sorrowful flight?
don’t the winter crows gather together by the light of the moon?
don’t a heart beat heavy alone in a dark and empty room?

“Infinite Night” is a good start, a moody Western strummer that brings out an interestingly fierce tone in Carrie’s voice that was absent from her previous release. Gary Louris sings harmony on the track as well as on “El Salvador”, while Lucinda Williams provides backing vocals on “Mask of Moses”.

The spunky spitfire image portrayed in the album’s cover art is deceptive. “She Ain’t Me” could use a dose of the opener’s vocal gumption, but the woman scorned title track instead leans into a catchier pop rhythm. And Rodriguez reveals the more vulnerable side of her voice in the desperate verses of “Rag Doll”.

Carrie’s fiddle haunts the eerily rustic stand out track “Absence”, on which Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan lends her voice. Other tracks melt into each other indistinctly until the attention is subtly absorbed once again by the austere arrangement and seductive lyrics of “Let Me In”.

Carrie till be touring with Alejandro Escovedo this autumn.

Carrie Rodriguez Official Site
Carrie Rodriguez MySpace

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Gary Louris: Vagabonds

The name Gary Louris may be unfamiliar, but those of us that were into the various “alternative” music scenes in the mid-1990s have heard him before. Louris was a founding member of Jayhawks and joined musicians from Wilco, The Replacements, Big Star, Son Volt, and Soul Asylum to form the supergroup Golden Smog. Louris has also written songs for Chris Thile and Dixie Chicks. Vagabonds is Gary’s debut solo release and its soulful, organic sound lives up to the impressive legacy of his past projects. Louris is backed by his all-star “Laurel Canyon Family Choir” comprised of producer Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes, Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, The Chapin Sisters, and Johnathan Rice among others.

I need a picture of my cherished love between my fingers
I grasp for fragments & I grasp for air in drowning chambers

The chorus of the opener “True Blue” has more than a hint of Jayhawks’ “Blue”, but the verses sprawl in a deeper Americana corner dusted with surging waves of piano. “Omaha Nights” has a catchier roots rock rhythm. The lovely “To Die A Happy Man” seems to be a pensive long distance love song, but hints at deeper contemplations.

The gorgeous harmony of the aforementioned “Laurel Canyon Family Choir” is most clearly heard on the steel teared stand out “She Only Calls Me On Sundays”. The smoother melody of “We’ll Get By” and the dulcet, delicate purity of “Black Grass” is the closest to pop that the album ever gets.

Most artists push weaker tracks to the middle and back of their albums, but Vagabonds only gets stronger as it drifts along. The dusky title track and the sweetly steeled “D.C. Blues” coast into a softer sound, but their sparse beauty is even more striking than the thicker arrangements that precede them.

Gary Louris – Black Grass (mp3 expired)
Gary Louris – Vagabonds (mp3 expired)

Gary Louris Official Site
Gary Louris MySpace

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