I can still remember when I first heard the Jayhawks in the early nineties. A friend had given me a tape of Hollywood Town Hall
and my first response was “Neil Young could probably sue those guys.” I think I might have said that once or twice when the subject of the Jayhawks came up but after a few listens… and then a few more… those songs started working their way into my head on a cellular level. I quit making snarky comments about them and started playing them all the time.
Over the course of three records they managed to forge a sound that was, at the same time, highly derivative and highly original and became one of my very favorite bands.
Yeah, they were more white-guy-folk-rock than the "alt country" label they were tagged with. Their early seventies “Southern Man” style riffs and long guitar jams merged with vaguely abstract lyrics and those ethereal harmonies between songwriters Mark Olson and Gary Louris, created a bunch of stubbornly enduring songs that could stick in your head like superglue.
After Olson left the band at their creative peak in ‘95, despite teaming up with his then-wife Victoria Williams, he kind of faded into obscurity while Louris kept the Jayhawks going, changing their sound pretty dramatically on the next two albums.
I caught an Olson solo show last year. It was a great night of quiet acoustic music with a few Jayhawks songs but there was definitely something missing. Obviously what was missing was Gary Louris.
So when Olson and Louris had put out a new acoustic record and booked a show in town, at the Sons of Herman Hall no less, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person around here who was overly excited at the opportunity.
Friday night they showed this town just what was lost when they went their separate ways long over a decade ago. You can take your Simon and Garfunkel and your Tweedy and Farrar and your Johnny and June and even your She and Him… If ever two people were born to sing together it was Olson and Louris.