Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Jayhawks- Mockingbird Time

The release of Mockingbird Time at the end of last year was the first new studio album for The Jayhawks since 2003. The Jawhawks alongside Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown etc heralded in a new era of alternative country, taking that style back to it's orginial creative roots, imbuing their music with that outlaw sensibility that had been pioneered by the likes of Neil Young, Gene Clark, Crosby Stills, Nash and Young. As often happens The Jayhawks are virtually unknown in Australia thus I wasn't aware of their history nor their back catalogue. The band has a lengthy history, originally forming in Minneapolis in 1985, they released their self titled debut the following year on a small independent label. Their breakthrough came in 1992 when they signed with Def American records and released Hollywood Town Hall. Like many alternative bands, The Jayhawks had a strong cult following but were unable to crossover to a wider audience until their last release in 2003 Rainy Day Music which reached U.S#51. From there the band dispersed to other various projects, regrouping 4 years later to play intermittent live shows before heading back into the studio towards the end of 2010 to record Mockingbird Time. Their new album has seen further commercial inroads becoming their first album to crack the U.S top 40.

Mockingbird Time is one of those albums that reels you in because it has that timeless quality, along with that is an honesty in the music. One of the hardest things to capture in music is originality derived from the legacies of the past, the Jayhawks wear their influences like badges of honour but never do they lose their sense of themselves, they don't get lost in re-creation. The album has a crisp sound, flourishes of reverb guitar are offset by soft piano chords. Hide Your Colours sounds like a joyful release, for a band that hadn't recorded together in nearly a decade, the opening track feels like a momentous release as the dual voices of Mark Olson and Gary Louris soar like birds. Tiny Arrows has a Crosby Stills and Nash feel, the songs seems to drift back towards Topanga Canyon, a feeling of introspection and nostalgia permeates throughout the album. She Walks in So Many Ways harnesses the groups harmonies backed with a jangling guitar and a sunny disposition. Cinnamon Love takes us back to the darker groove once again channelling CSN&Y with those layered harmonies and fuzz style guitar. Pouring Rain At Dawn goes even further back it has the folk harmonies you might have heard on a late 60's Byrds album. Sometimes it feels that the concept of Americana is becoming overexposed and almost formulaic in approach, it takes albums like this to know that there are bands who have an approach that won't be tarnished by outside pressures.

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