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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Stripped down effort works just fine for The Jayhawks

McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, Cal., April 14, 2002

By Dan MacIntosh

SANTA MONICA, CA - It's not unusual for big touring rock bands to look uncomfortable when squished into the tiny stage of the living room-like McCabe's. These acts can oftentimes sound as out of place as they look, especially when audience members shout out requests for songs that are just too difficult to play in a stripped down, acoustic arrangement.

Not so for The Jayhawks, however, since this group's songs are driven by immediately memorable melodies and fine harmonious singing, which are two all-weather musical elements that always deliver - with or without any added production touches.

Reduced to just a trio, singer Gary Louris led the band through a set of mostly familiar material plus a few new songs. One such song was so new, it didn't even have a title yet. Instead, Louris pre-announced it with the multiple-choice name of either "Pretty Little Hairdo," "Driving With Your Eyes Shut" or "Save It For A Rainy Day." The group also performed a song Louris recently wrote with former Jayhawks co-leader Mark Olson, which had supposedly been rejected for the soundtrack to an upcoming movie. He didn't say it's title, but it's probably named something like "Say That You'll Come Back, Or Say You'll Be Mine."

The best new song of all is called "Angela." It includes one haunting line, where the love interest in it complains that she can't be with a man who can only take her half the way to love.

The Jayhawks opened with "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," and when Louris dedicated it to a Bob, one guesses this dedication was for producer Bob Ezrin. Ezrin produced this track, as well as the rest of the material on the band's most recent album, "Smile." The group also played the title cut, and a few other selections from that album.

The Jayhawks also drew liberally from its "Tomorrow The Green Grass" album, and closed the show with some of its very best songs, which included "Blue," "I'll Run Away" and "Nothing Left To Borrow."

The Jayhawks performed all of these songs in various acoustic configurations. While Louris stuck to acoustic guitar and harmonica, the group also added mandolin, electric bass and drums into the mix as well. Without all the usual volume it creates at a regular club date, Louris' high vibrato was beautifully crystal clear in this intimate room, which made for one special Jayhawks date.

The Cash Brothers, who made the best of a short six-song set, opened. They only had acoustic guitars and their voices, which was all they really needed to make it work at McCabe's. Brothers Andrew and Peter harmonized sweetly - as only brothers can - on a lot of well-written material. Highlights included the lonely driving music of "Nebraska," and the pretty melody and cynical lyrics of "Night Shift Guru."