Their country rock charms somehow seemed pretty much lost on the Great American Public.
Jon Lusk 2009
Pop music's road to riches is littered with the burnt out wrecks of bands like The Jayhawks. Somewhat overrated by many critics, their country rock charms somehow seemed pretty much lost on the Great American Public, and after six albums and two decades of struggles and changing personnel, they called it a day. This lovingly compiled and annotated retrospective, (which also comes in a deluxe 3-disc edition featuring demos, out-takes etc, and videos) does a decent job of covering their entire career, and may well win them new fans. But it may just as easily sink without trace, too.
''We always thought we were doing something really original,'' declares their longest running member, singer Gary Louris in PD Larson's sleevenotes. In spite of this, their influences were mostly fairly obvious, with particular emphasis on Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers in the first phase of their career. The anthemic Trouble and Smile seem heavily indebted to The Hollies and The Beatles, and Tailspin sounds like a rewrite of The Byrds' version of Dylan's My Back Pages. Incidentally, their name was a sly homage to Bob's backing Band, originally called The Hawks.
The trademark vocal harmony partnership of Mark Olsen and Gary Louris was sundered when Olsen unexpectedly left after their third album Tomorrrow The Green Grass. To his credit, Louris – a slightly less distinctive singer – soldiered on, with the newly recruited drummer Tim O'Regan taking the place of Olsen, who quit the band to make music with his wife Victoria Williams. There's even a song about her here – Miss Williams' Guitar.
Big Star features the other most overtly biographical lyric, documenting the band's frustrations with their lack of commercial success, against one of their rockier arrangements: ''I couldn’t get arrested if I tried/…I'm gonna be a big star some day''.
It does seem cruel that The Jayhawks' highest placing on the Billboard album chart was number 52. Why, for instance, was a song as catchy as Blue not a huge hit? They were a good band, sometimes a very good band, though never, perhaps, a truly great one.