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08-08-2009, 09:43 PM

Jayhawks reunion spawns anthology

Sat, August 8, 2009
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MINNEAPOLIS -- While critics give the Jayhawks credit for helping invent alt-country, co-founder Mark Olson is quick to downplay the band's contributions to the rustic blend of rock and country that blossomed in the 1980s and '90s.

"If people credit us with it, I think it was more that we happened to be working along the same lines" as other groups, Olson says. "There was definitely people working on the same thing."

Olson left the Jayhawks in 1995, but now is back in the lineup with co-leader Gary Louris. The band is performing again in concert.

The performances coincide with Sony Legacy's release of Music From the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology. The collection spans the Minneapolis band's history from Twin/Tone Records through American Recordings. Next month, Sony Legacy will start re-releasing the Jayhawks' five major-label releases, with bonus tracks.

Olson, 47, recalls the Jayhawks making waves when they began playing in 1985, when "the Minneapolis Sound" was defined by Prince's funk-rock and the Replacements' pop-punk.

"I think people thought it was a little strange. We were playing this country stuff in the rock bars," Olson said.

The Jayhawks were attracted to the humour and world view of the Flying Burrito Brothers and the "great stories" of The Band, Olson said. That led Olson and Louris to trace those bands' influences and discover "English folk stuff," Olson said.

The Jayhawks signed with Rick Rubin's Def American label (later American Recordings) and released two classic albums -- Hollywood Town Hall (1992) and Tomorrow the Green Grass (1995) -- with producer George Drakoulias.

Drakoulias said the Jayhawks "really opened the door" for other bands, such as Counting Crows and the Wallflowers. "We cracked it open, and those guys kicked it open," he said.

But after 10 years in the Jayhawks, Olson decided to leave the band when he married singer-songwriter Victoria Williams and moved to the California desert. (The two have since split up.)

"And for some reason I got it into my mind I needed to change," Olson said. "Looking back, I probably should have taken a couple-year break or something."

After Olsen left, the Jayhawks soldiered on, putting out three more albums -- Sound of Lies (1997), Smile (2000) and Rainy Day Music (2003) -- before Louris declared the band dead in 2005.

Louris, 54, said he's glad he and Olson have mended fences.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing to find somebody that you can sing with and create this third voice," Louris said.





With these Minneapolis alt-country pioneers finally back on active duty after a lengthy hiatus, there's no better time to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with their twangy, Gram Parsons-inspired country-rock. This chronological 20-track compilation (also available in deluxe two-disc form) cherrypicks the highlights from their six albums. Here's hoping No. 7 is on the way.

Download: Miss Williams' Guitar, Big Star

08-18-2009, 11:50 AM

Nice little review here.