Category: The Jayhawks

Interview: Gary Louris

Since Minneapolitan alt-country pioneers The Jayhawks disbanded in 2005, former leader Gary Louris has kept busy as a songwriter (including work on Dixie Chicks’ Taking The Long Way) and producer, as well as touring and recording again with his old Jayhawks bandmate Mark Olson, with whom he has a duo album set for release later this year. This month, he releases his first solo record, Vagabonds, which explores the sound of the 1970s’ California singer-songwriter scene. He’ll embark on a U.S. tour in March. On a snowy day the week before the album’s release, he talked to The A.V. Club about producing other people, the possibility of a Jayhawks reunion, and why he doesn’t write songs about the chick he wants to bang.

Originally published March 2, 2008 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Review: Gary Louris, Vagabonds

Here’s the obvious first question about a solo artist’s first release after the breakup of a well-known band: How much, if at all, will it sound like the old band? With Vagabonds, former Jayhawks leader Gary Louris takes a few careful steps away from the sounds of the alt-country pioneers—just enough to shine a new light without moving too far from what he’s proven to excel at. Eager to capture the spirit of the 1970s singer-songwriter scene, Louris recorded Vagabonds in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon area—where musicians like Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills & Nash hung out back in the day—gathering a group of backing musicians including The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs and Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis. Producer Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes helps Louris steer the album toward classic rock, but except for the soaring harmonies that were a Jayhawks staple, Vagabonds is marked by the hallmarks of Louris’ style: beautiful melodies, both winsome and sad. It’s probably too introspective to make much of a splash outside his established fan base, but it certainly shouldn’t lose him any fans either.

Originally published on avclub.com Feb. 18, 2008. Read the complete article.

Best Music Of 2006: Loon State Edition

As the A.V. Club’s Twin Cities editor, I was happy to weigh in on our collective national Best Music Of 2006 list (here’s a link to my personal top 10), but I also thought it would be important to do the same for my own local music scene. I put the following list together for the A.V. Club’s Minneapolis print edition, and in the name of civic pride and all that, I’ll share it with you guys here too. Though making these annual best-of lists is one of the highlights of a critics’ year, the idea of ranking one musician against another sometimes seems a little ludicrous. Is a rap group really comparable to a folk duo, or an alt-country band? You know what they say about apples and oranges. Still, they’re both fruit, and if you can’t pick out rotten produce, you’re gonna wind up in the hospital. Of course, you can’t really compare CDs and fruit either, except to say that if you try to eat a CD you will definitely end up in the hospital even if it’s a good band. (This despite the fact that economists call people who buy CDs “consumers.”) At any rate, here are my picks for the best Minnesota-made music of 2006.

Originally published Dec. 14, 2006 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Review: Golden Smog, Another Fine Day

A lot can change in eight years, and that was certainly true for the roots-rock supergroup Golden Smog, a coalition of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and several Minneapolis alt-rockers, including Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of The Jayhawks, Soul Asylum guitarist Dan Murphy, and Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run. The Jayhawks and the Westies broke up, Soul Asylum nearly did, and Johnson moved to Spain. But the bonds of friendship kept the Smog thick, eventually resulting in Another Fine Day, the group’s first outing since 1998′s Weird Tales.

For all the pleasures of its previous albums, Golden Smog has always been a victim of its side-project status—the easygoing, loose-knit feel helped out the vibe, but also highlighted the fact that, at the end of the day, these guys had to get back to their real bands. And so The Jayhawks’ decision to pursue other interests works directly to Fine Day‘s benefit: This is the other interest. Louris’ songwriting style permeates the record—he co-wrote 11 of the 15 songs. Still, a certain mellow collaborative spirit guides things. Some songs are clearly stamped as a particular musician’s creation, like Murphy’s rocked-up “Hurricane,” but in general, Fine Day seems like a true band project in a way no previous Golden Smog disc has.

Given the talent assembled, displays of pop gorgeousness are a given. The parent-to-child love song “Cure For This” is especially lovely, as are the Jayhawks-esque openers “You Make It Easy” and “Another Fine Day.” There are few outright stumbles—though “Corvette”‘s roots as a car-commercial soundtrack are all too obviousóbut much of the record seems perfunctory. Songs like “Beautiful Mind” and “Long Time Ago” are like alt-country versions of Miss America runner-ups: pretty and polished, but ultimately forgettable. There’s plenty of gold here, but also too much smog.

Originally published on avclub.com July 19, 2006. Read the complete article.

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