Somehow Gary Louris and Marc Perlman have persevered. The singer/guitarist and bassist co-founded the Jayhawks with Mark Olson more than 30 years ago, and they’ve kept at it through various lineup changes that have included Olson leaving, returning and leaving again. He’s absent on the band’s ninth album, Paging Mr. Proust, which pairs Louris and Perlman with Tomorrow the Green Grass-era members Karen Grotberg on keys and vocals and Tim O’Reagan on drums.
Perhaps the most quietly influential Americana band of the past 30 years, Minnesota's Jayhawks never achieved the commercial success that many (including early backer Rick Rubin) predicted for them, but in the three decades since their formation in the late 1980s, the Jayhawks' reputation among their peers has far outpaced their middling fan base; everyone from Wilco and Bon Iver to the Dixie Chicks and Nickel Creek counts them among their key influences. Certainly, it's tough to imagine the advent of harmony-forward bands like the Lone Bellow and Fleet Foxes, or twangsters like the Turnpike Troubadours and the Sadies without the Jayhawks' varied contributions over the years. Though their story is a bit messy — the band's lineup has shifted from record to record and Mark Olson, one of their co-founders and central voices, has been on- and mostly off-again — the band's two consistent members, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman, have managed to craft a remarkably steady catalogue over the years.
When Mark Olson parted ways with the Jayhawks in 1996, the band responded with 1997's Sound of Lies, one of their scrappiest and most eclectic albums. It was as if the Jayhawks (in particular Gary Louris) wanted to show the world they were still strong and lively despite the departure of one of their co-founders. Olson returned to the Jayhawks for the 2011 reunion album Mockingbird Time, only to leave the band again on less than cordial terms.
The Jayhawks’ ninth record Paging Mr. Proust opens with one of the best songs the band has ever released, “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces”. It’s the kind of song that, nearly 30 years into his influential career, one might presume that Gary Louris could knock out in his sleep. It contains all of the beloved, defining elements of the band: the plaintive lyrical introduction, shimmering folk-country guitars, and soaring harmonies, all of it anchored by Marc Perlman’s loping, confident bassline.
History repeats itself with the latest set by the Jayhawks, a band built on the Everly-cum-Burrito Brothers vocal harmonies of Mark Olson and Gary Louris that, when Olson departed in the Nineties, went from baroque country rock into rangier pop-rock territory. After his one-off return for 2011's Mockingbird Time, its Louris' show again on Paging Mr. Proust, and it's the band's rangiest set yet.
Loose but tight, quiet but loud. Considering The Jayhawks have been around for more than 30 years, and it’s a long time since their pivotal Hollywood Town Hall album of 1992, the band’s music remains effervescent and fresh..
Five years ago, the Jayhawks reunited, with original co-leader Mark Olson returning alongside Gary Louris, to release the delightful Mockingbird Time. Sadly, Olson is gone again for its follow-up, but Jayhawks fans need not fear, for album No 9 sounds just as you’d expect the Jayhawks to sound: modest, uninsistent, and rocking in a gentle way, save for when Louris lets his guitar squall through the otherwise modest, uninsistent, and gentle country-funk of Ace. Paging Mr Proust is an apt title, because 30 years on from their debut, the Jayhawks – though no nostalgia act – serve very much as a memory prompter: it’s hard not to feel nostalgic listening to the easy musical chemistry between their principals.
Naming an album for a long-ago French novelist might seem a bit pretentious, but the Jayhawks have never been for everyone. A thinking-man’s alt-country band formed more than 30 years ago in Minneapolis, they’re back with their revived late-’90s lineup; Mark Olson is gone, but Gary Louris steps up beautifully, and co-produces with Peter Buck (R. E.