Jayhawks fans began to rejoice in late 2008 when it was reported that founding members Mark Olson and Gary Louris had completed an album. The duo had rekindled their association on tour dates over the previous three years, and the album Ready For The Flood (produced by Chris Robinson) was released by New West in January 2009. In support, Olson and Louris set out on a new round of cross-country tour dates, including SXSW in March.
The good news just keeps coming with the announcement of a Jayhawks reunion with bassist Marc Perlman (plus drummer/vocalist Tim O’Reagan, and Karen Grotberg on keyboards and vocals) – the first time they have performed together in the U.S. since 1995. The band has been booked for shows in Europe during the spring and summer 2009 (including Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival, May 30th). Topping the schedule will be a homecoming reunion gig at the Basilica Block Party outdoor festival in Minneapolis on Friday, July 10th.
The historic Twin Cities reunion show will serve as the official launch party for MUSIC FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY: THE JAYHAWKS ANTHOLOGY, which will be available July 7th at all physical and digital retail outlets through American/ Legacy, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT. The magnificent vocal harmonies of Mark Olson and Gary Louris, the shimmering and intuitive layers of guitars, and above all the consummate songwriting bears witness to one of the most incandescent bands in the American country-rock tradition – be it labeled “alt country,” “Americana,” “No Depression” or any comparable genre.
Under the guidance of Gary Louris, the first compilation ever released on the Jayhawks is a career-spanning assemblage of 20 signature singles and album tracks – from their 1989 debut album on Minneapolis-based Twin/Tone Records, Blue Earth, through all five of their albums on the American Recordings label: the breakthrough Hollywood Town Hall (1992), Tomorrow The Green Grass (1995), Sound Of Lies (1997), Smile (2000), and Rainy Day Music (2003).
Adding provenance to the collection is an insightful liner notes essay by PD Larson, a Minneapolis-based writer who’s been a fan since witnessing the first-ever Jayhawks concert in 1985. Larson sets the scene by laying out the roots and branches of the Jayhawks influences in folk, rock and country – Bob Dylan, the Hawks (the source of the Jayhawks’ name, the backup group for Ronnie Hawkins and later Dylan, as they became the Band), the Flying Burrito Brothers, “the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, anything involving Gram Parsons, connoisseur-grade country, folk and blues sources.”
The 20-song career overview will be released separately as a single CD on its own, and as the cornerstone of a deluxe three-disc set. The eco-friendly three-panel paper foldout “soft pack” (no plastic jewelcase) will contain an additional CD of Jayhawks rarities – out-of-print tracks, demos, outtakes, alternate versions, single B-sides, live material, and one cut from their indie self-released, self-titled debut album of 1986 on the Bunkhouse label (referred to as The Bunkhouse Album).
Fourteen of the 20 tracks on this rarities CD are previously unreleased. All are extensively annotated by Larson, whose knowledge of the Jayhawks sheds light throughout.
The third disc in the deluxe package is a DVD highlighted by six music video clips produced for the Jayhawks: “Waiting For The Sun,” “Settled Down Like Rain,” “Take Me With You (When You Go),” “Blue,” “Big Star,” and “Save It For A Rainy Day.” Additional video content for the DVD includes two EPKs (electronic press kits) produced for Hollywood Town Hall in 1992 (20 minutes, with full live versions of “Settled Down Like Rain,” Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe,” and “Take Me With You (When You Go),” filmed at the Metro in Chicago on Valentine’s Day, 1993) and for Sound Of Lies in 1997 (seven minutes). All DVD content is being released commercially for the first time. Final track listing TBD.
Larson astutely lays out the “career arc” of the Jayhawks as a three-act play, in which Act I covers the years after Olson, Louris and Perlman first got together in 1985. The singing, songwriting and performing began to coalesce and early demos poured out from the band. After The Bunkhouse Album (“Falling Star”), interest and attention from indie labels and major labels never quite came to a boil, so the Jayhawks signed with Minneapolis-based Twin/Tone. The small company gathered the demos, which were “spruced up” and released in 1988 as Blue Earth, the band’s first nationally-distributed album (“Two Angels,” “Ain’t No End,” “Old Woman From Red Clay”).
Act II began in 1988, with Louris recovering from a near-fatal car accident and the band limping along without him. Rick Rubin’s Def American label (later to morph into American Recordings) entered the picture in 1989, in the form of producer/A&R rep George Drakoulias. Legend has it that he was intrigued when he heard Blue Earth playing in the background during a long-distance phone call to Twin/Tone. By 1991, the band was signed to American by Drakoulias, who produced their next two albums, two of the most influential classics of the ’90s: Hollywood Town Hall (1992, source of “Waiting For The Sun,” “Martin’s Song,” Clouds,” “Settled Down Like Rain”); and Tomorrow The Green Grass (1995, with “Blue,” “I’d Run Away,” “Over My Shoulder,” and “Miss Williams’ Guitar,” homage to Olson’s girlfriend and later wife, singer-songwriter Victoria Williams). These were high times for the Jayhawks, with appearances at Farm Aid, on The Late Show with David Letterman, and on tours with Bob Dylan and fellow American Recordings artist Johnny Cash.
Act III can be described as the post-Olson era, following his abrupt departure from the band in 1995, moving to California to follow his wife’s folksy leanings in the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers. Jayhawks stalwarts Louris and Perlman carried on, however, with singer/keyboardist Karen Grotberg (a member since 1993) and new drummer Tim O’Reagan, who turned out to be a gifted songwriter in his own right, and whose vocals with Louris were uncannily resonant of the Louris-Olson combo. To paraphrase Larson, the Jayhawks took off again on their next three albums that veered from the darkly modern mélange of Sound of Lies (1997, with “Trouble,” “Big Star,” “The Man Who Loved Life”), to the Bob Ezrin-produced orchestral pop of Smile (2000, with “Smile,” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “What Led Me To This Town”), and back to the more traditional Ethan Johns-produced Rainy Day Music (2003, with “Tailspin,” “All The Right Reasons,” “Save It For A Rainy Day,” “Angelyne”). Rainy Day Music gave the Jayhawks their highest Billboard chart debut (#52), but top-rung success still eluded them, so the decision was made to “call it a day” in 2005.
Ironically, Olson and Louris reestablished their connection that same year, writing together again, and touring in 2005-2006. Louris, Olson and O’Reagan all released solo albums that were well-received by the press and Americana radio, and Perlman also “got around to working on some of his own compositions that had been piling up.” Olson and Louris first ventured into the studio in 2007, with “old friend and road buddy” Chris Robinson (of the Black Crowes) in the producer’s chair. Louris and Olson’s first major studio collaboration in over a decade, Ready For the Flood (on the New West label) sounded nothing like a Jayhawks album, critics and programmers agreed, yet the acoustic guitars and crystalline harmonies are unmistakable. The magic has been just as evident on their most recent 2009 touring.
“Over their long career,” Larson concludes, “the Jayhawks created an impressive body of work, rivaling the best music from anyone in the post-punk era. Only time will tell if the Jayhawks will rise again and reclaim their title as a living, breathing American musical treasure.”
MUSIC FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY: THE JAYHAWKS ANTHOLOGY
Title From album Label Year
1. Two Angels Blue Earth Rhino/Ryko/Twin/Tone 1989
2. Ain’t No End Blue Earth Rhino/Ryko/Twin/Tone 1989
3. Waiting For The Sun Hollywood Town Hall American Recordings 1992
4. Martin’s Song Hollywood Town Hall American Recordings 1992
5. Clouds Hollywood Town Hall American Recordings 1992
6. Settled Down Like Rain Hollywood Town Hall American Recordings 1992
7. Blue Tomorrow The Green Grass American Recordings 1995
8. I’d Run Away Tomorrow The Green Grass American Recordings 1995
9. Over My Shoulder Tomorrow The Green Grass American Recordings 1995
10. Miss Williams’ Guitar Tomorrow The Green Grass American Recordings 1995
11. Trouble Sound Of Lies American Recordings 1997
12. Big Star Sound Of Lies American Recordings 1997
13. The Man Who Loved Life Sound Of Lies American Recordings 1997
14. Smile Smile Columbia/American 2000
15. I’m Gonna Make You Love Me Smile Columbia/American 2000
16. What Led Me To This Town Smile Columbia/American 2000
17. Tailspin Rainy Day Music American 2003
18. All The Right Reasons Rainy Day Music American 2003
19. Save It For A Rainy Day Rainy Day Music American 2003
20. Angelyne Rainy Day Music American 2003
CD Two – Rarities (with Deluxe package only)
Title Source notes Rec.
1. Falling Star from The Jayhawks (aka The Bunkhouse Album) 1986
2. * Old Woman From Red Clay alternate version (from Blue Earth sessions) 1988
3. * That’s The Bag I’m In KFAI radio session – Minneapolis 1989
4. * Won’ Be Coming Home demo 1991
5. * Stone Cold Mess outtake from Hollywood Town Hall sessions 1992
6. * Mission On 2nd demo 1994
7. Lights from Sweet Relief: A Benefit For Victoria Williams 1993
8. Darling Today from Blown Away movie soundtrack 1994
9. Break My Mind B-side of “Bad Time” CD single 1995
10. Get The Load Out B-side of “Bad Time” European CD single 1995
11.* Poor Little Fish early version (from Sound Of Lies) 1996
12. Someone Will demo (from The Jayhawks – Live From The Women’s 1998
Club official bootleg, 2003)
13.* Cure For This demo recorded at Jayhawks rehearsal space 1999
14.* I Can Make It On My Own demo recorded at Jayhawks rehearsal space 1998-99
15.* Rotterdam demo recorded at Jayhawks rehearsal space 1999
16.* Follow Me demo recorded at Jayhawks rehearsal space 2001
17.* In The Canyon demo recorded at Jayhawks rehearsal space 2001
18.* Tailspin (early version) demo recorded at Jayhawks rehearsal space 2001
19.* I Think I’ve Had Enough demo recorded at Louris home 2001
20.* Help Me Forget demo recorded at Jayhawks rehearsal space 2001
* Previously Unreleased
DVD (with Deluxe package only) – FINAL TRACK LISTING TBD
• Waiting For The Sun (music video)
• Settled Down Like Rain (music video)
• Take Me With You (When You Go) (music video)
• Hollywood Town Hall EPK (20 minutes) – includes full live versions of “Settled Down Like Rain,” “Reason To Believe” and “Take Me With You (When You Go),” filmed at the Metro in Chicago on February 14, 1993.
• Blue (music video)
• Big Star (music video)
• Sound Of Lies EPK (7 minutes)
• Save It For A Rainy Day (music video)
(all DVD content is previously unreleased commercially)