View Full Version : a review worth reading

01-27-2004, 06:18 AM
taken from Monday's NY Daily News:

'Hawks reach
top alt-itude

The Jayhawks (Gary Louris, pictured) graced Town Hall.

Too often, people say of modern musicians: "They don't write 'em like they used to."
But the Jayhawks do.

At their recent headlining show at Town Hall, the band twanged through country-rock tunes that were more than just clear descendants of their influences — including the Byrds, CSN&Y and the acoustic Dead. They were every inch their peers.

The Jayhawks' songs ring with the close harmonies, warm melodies and jingle-jangle chords that made albums (by the aforementioned bands, respectively) such as "Sweetheart of the Rodeo," "Déjà Vu" and "Workingman's Dead" classics. In a show that lasted an hour and 45 minutes, there wasn't a single song that didn't make you want to sing along.

Gary Louris, the band's main singer and writer, may not have the world's most electrifying stage presence. With his spindly frame and red, tangled hair, Louris has all the sexual charisma of Carrot Top. But his vocals quaver with sensitivity. And when he twinned his voice with drummer Tim O'Reagan, it produced the tension and beauty of great pop harmony.

In the long history of this Minneapolis band — which snakes back to the mid-'80s and through many personnel changes — the Jayhawks have explored every combination pioneered by Buffalo Springfield in 1967 — folk-rock, country-rock and pop-rock. On their seventh and latest work, "Rainy Day Music," the Jayhawks tip toward the folkier side, and many of the CD's songs provided this show's highlights.

The opening "Stumbling Through the Dark" has a melody that keeps getting catchier as it goes. In "Tailspin" — the song that's now earning the band its most radio play — the verses proved as heartening as the choruses.

The Jayhawks have a secret weapon in second singer/writer O'Reagan. Though he sang only three leads during the concert, they were crucial ones. His "Tampa to Tulsa" sounds like a lost Gram Parsons classic. While O'Reagan's voice isn't as decorative as Louris', its flaws give it heart.

In their lyrics, both O'Reagan and Louris make the most with the least. In several terse phrases in "Save It for a Rainy Day," Louris captures the life of a woman who won't adjust to her advancing age. While Louris' words can be accusatory, there's an empathy to his observations.

Because of their deep history of roots-rock tunefulness and pedal-steel melancholy, the Jayhawks have been seen as pioneers in the genre known as alt-country music.

But of all the acts in that esteemed bin — from Wilco to Son Volt to Ryan Adams to the Pernice Brothers — the Jayhawks boast the most embraceable tunes and the most caring vocals.

They're doing their forebears proud.