So there are maybe 10 bands that I have any desire to hear new music from.
Wilco / Jeff Tweedy
Keith Richards / Rolling Stones
Gospelbeach (see my last entry)
And honestly, if I had to choose just one, Bruce and The Jayhawks would be a tough decision.
So how did a band that has been making music since 1986, and have never had a “real” hit single or hit LP become the band that I am the most interested in NEW music from?
A few reasons: First, they have been unbelievably consistent. Their 2018 LP “Backroads and Abandoned Motels” was largely new recordings of songs that Gary Louris had written for other people over the years. He has three lead singers in the band and a half dozen co-writers. It should be a stop-gap or “b-sides” type LP, instead, it is equal or better than their amazing (career high) Paging Mr. Proust (2016). The LP concludes with two brand new songs written for this LP that are among Louris’ best. “Leaving Detroit” and “Cary You To Safety” are too mellow to lead the LP, but may be the best two tracks.
Their catalog of 10 Lps (plus a best of with a rare tracks bonus disc, a live download only LP, and a two disc “official” bootleg of an unplugged show) does not have a single bad track. There are songs I like better than others, but there is not a stinker to be found with 100+ original songs. Add the Louris/Olsen Ready For The Flood, add Gary’s solo LP, Golden Smog contributions, there just aren’t any weak songs.
(Gary does not like “Mockingbird Time” the Louris/Olsen-Jayhawks reunion LP from 2011 – I have to disagree with him, it is strong and holds up against their catalog. When it came out it was my favorite LP of theirs. In fact Tiny Arrows is in my top 5 favorite Jayhawks songs.)
Second, they have found their groove as an older band, they are more soulful, more willing to take chances, and they GEL as a group better than ever. As players they are all at the top of their game, and Gary, Tim and Karen’s voices are as good as they have ever been.
What artist HONESTLY improves with age (be honest). Who can still play the old songs in the original key, with the same spark, with the same voices (mostly) and make them fit in with their current music? Who isn’t playing their “oldies” set with a new song or two peppered in that sends the audience to the bar or bathroom?
The “Live At The Belly Up” release (2015, download only) was from a tour they were on to celebrate the re-release of three LPS from the late 90’s/early 2000’s (Sound Of Lies, Smile, Rainy Day Music), so 15-20 years since they originally came out. This band was able to improve on nearly every song from these LPS night after night, and they STILL play these songs like it was 1998.
So back to my real anticipation of their new material. 34 years after their debut (“Bunkhouse” LP from 1986, well before their Twin Tone or American Recordings major label debut)what I want is 12 more songs I can add to my endless Jayhawks playlist. There will be 4-5 new songs that will (rightfully) become part of the live show, and hopefully will get them to Atlanta again. If the quality is on par with what they have done the last few years, it will be my LP of the year 2020.