Friday, July 4, 2014

CD Review: The Jayhawks Revisit Their Alternative-Country Masterpieces And Add Bonus Tracks

American alternative country band The Jayhawks are rolling out deluxe editions of three of their biggest albums while on the American label. On July 1st, Universal Music Group released remastered versions of these albums along with previously unreleased music. Within six years, The Jayhawks would release three consecutive albums ("Sound Of Lies," "Smile," "Rainy Day Music") that would be the foundation for what would become known as alternative country music. Without any blockbuster singles, the album "Sound Of Lives" would be filled with electrifying guitar solos ("Think About It" and "Big Star") and acoustic, laid-back country harmonies ("It's Up To You" and "Haywire"). The band was still looking for their place in the musical landscape, caught between two genres. The original album will boast the addition of five bonus songs including the studio recording outtake "Kirby's Tune." This is more of an experimental piece that does not fit with the rest of the songs on the album, but is plenty of fun to listen to.

Next up was the band's 2000 release "Smile," which was produced by Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd). It carries a more polished sound with extra instrumentation in order to flesh-out the music. The music carries a more "earthy" tone filled with acoustic and stringed instruments. The lush sound of "What Led Me To This Town" and country shuffle of "A Break In The Clouds" led the way with what sound was to come from The Jayhawks with their next release "Rainy Day Music." The "Smile" album has a bit of a pulse with "Life Floats By" and "(In My) Wildest Dreams" and the new version adds six bonus songs. The outtakes "Who Made You King" and "Gypsy In The Mood" would have fit perfectly within this album and are a must hear for fans. Plus, the two acoustic based demos for "Great Garbo" and "Five Cornered Blues," sound like missed opportunities, but are newly discovered gems with these new releases.

Finally we get to "Rainy Day Music," which was The Jayhawks last release on the American record label. When listening to the albums in order, it feels like the proper progression to their approach in recording these albums. On this specific album, the theory was "less is more," as during the recording of this album as The Jayhawks were only a trio. The album also featured the vocal talents of Jakob Dylan on the acoustic rocker "Come To The River" and Matthew Sweet on the pop/rock of "Tailspin" and gentle flow of "All The Right Reasons." One of the highlights of the "Rainy Day Music" album is the CSN-feel of "Madman," as the voices of Gary Louris, Tim O'Reagan and Stephen McCarthy blend together perfectly. The original 14-song album gets boosted with six more previously unheard bonus tracks, including a rare live version of "In The Caynon."

The Jayhawks are currently touring in Europe, but look for them to return to the U.S. in August. To find out more about these great new deluxe editions from The Jayhawks, please visit

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