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It's no lie, The Jayhawks know who their friends are

Paradise, Boston, October 18, 2011

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The Jayhawks may be liars. Consider the lyrics to Blue, perhaps the reconstituted band's best-known song. "Where have all my friends gone/They've all disappeared" starts the song with trademark vocals from Mark Olson and Gary Louris.

Hmmm. You wouldn't know that based on this outing from the veteran band touring behind its first disc in 16 years with the original band line-up, "Mockingbird Time." The crowd may have aged with The Jayhawks, but both were back in the fold. And in the case of the quintet, they remain in strong shape.

The fact of the matter was that there was an ageless quality to the music, meaning that there were no obvious differences between the large swatch of "Mockingbird Time" that the band played and older songs.

The Jayhawks played about two-thirds of the new disc, and the trademark sound was retained. The band was at the forefront of the alt.-country movement with harmony vocals with a country rock sound informing the music. That emphasis remains true today with Louris and Olson often harmonizing throughout although both took lead vocals during the 90 minutes.

It was most obvious with their vocal interplay that not much has changed over time with the timing between the two impeccable.

The remainder of the band helped flesh out the sound, particularly drummer Tim O'Reagan, who took lead vocals on one song, and keyboardist Karen Grotberg, whose role was more obvious as the show wore on. Bassist Marc Perlman worked in tandem with O'Reagan to create a sturdy rhythm section.

The Jayhawks mixed it up a bit sound-wise, at times going for a denser, heavier sound, but equally comfortable with a Beach Boys feel. A slow, very spare Love Hurts worked quite well. They even closed the regular set with the quite surprising Up Above My Head by gospel superstar Kirk Franklin.

Time and again, you witness bands regrouping to rake in the bucks and cash in on their past. That was not the case whatsoever with The Jayhawks, who have played intermittently over the years. Reissues of "Tomorrow the Green Grass" and "Hollywood Town Hall" helped forge the full-blown effort.

The fact is the band may never rise above their former status (the near sell-out crowd was comprised of older folks who probably were around 15 years ago rather than a new generation of fans), but that might just be a fine place to be. With a strong new disc and band that has aged quite well, it's no lie. The Jayhawks know who their friends are - each other.