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The Jayhawks

Mockingbird Time – 2011 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Michael Berick

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CDs by The Jayhawks

Louris and Olson together again! In Americana circles, this is a long-wanted, hotly anticipated event. While they have played and recorded in recent years (most prominently with their 2008 duo collaboration "Ready For The Flood") this is the first time The Jayhawks founders have recorded together under the band's name back in 1995. They don't waste any time getting back to their basic sound. After a quick flourish of guitars, the two chime in with the beloved harmonies set against some beautiful bucolic pop. The opening track admonishes listeners that "you shouldn't hide your colors," and this reunion similarly reflects the feeling to doing things that feel good - like playing with old friends.

The "live for today" attitude also surfaces in the title track, which opens with the line "yesterday is gone like the wind," and later on, Louris and Olson sing: "I want to make something for you that brings you joy." A feeling of joy courses through the album. You can hear it in the second number, Closer to Your Side, which boasts lovely lines like "you my heart I can give it to/you my soul I can make it with." Even in the thoughtful country-style apologia Pouring Down At Dawn shares the feeling: "I was always so in love with you" while admitting you "can't turn back the hands of time." Closer To Your Side also exemplifies how this album merges traditional Jayhawks' sounds while incorporating new elements. While it overflows with twangy folk-rock and Louris/Olson signature harmonies, the song also finds space for a bed of strings as well as psychedelic-fringed interlude that recalls something from Eight Miles High-era Byrds. A nod to The Byrds is a natural one. The wonderfully jangly She Walks In So Many Ways can be seen as an updating up The Byrds' The World Revolves Around Her. It's the psychedelic curlicues that bring some more left-field sonic touches.High Water Blues uses a blast of electric guitars to venture in a midsection of acoustic picking and Who-like riffs. It's one that whets your appetite to hear how the band would jam on it live. A biting, Sixties-ish guitar line surfaces towards the end of Cinnamon Love (although not in a Neil Young way) and a blast of manipulated guitar surprises listeners in Guilder Annie. The closer, Hey Mr. Man is powered by big, old-school guitar riffs that seem to signal the fun the band is having here.

The Jayhawks expertly shift throughout between dark and light without turning melancholic and downbeat (although they do warn "this is going to be a dark road" in the Black-Eyed Susan.). The disc represents a warm and welcome return from this beloved band to be thoroughly enjoyed by long-time fans and new ones as well. Although there might not be the immediately obvious show-stopper (She Walks probably stands as the best contender for a timeless classic), this set arrives populated with expertly hand-crafted tunes that reflect where The Jayhawks have been while also signaling that the still-vibrant band has more good stuff to offer in the future.