Jayhawks ready to soar

Band regroups, promotes new CD ‘Mockingbird Time’

By

Published:

 

If you go:

What: The Jayhawks, in concert.

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 7.

Where: The Roseland Theater, 8 N.W. Sixth Ave., Portland.

Cost: $25-$35, ages 21 and over.

Information: http://jayhawksofficial.com.

The Jayhawks, who recently reunited, have changed dramatically since they first appeared in the Minneapolis music scene in the mid-1980s.

Singer/guitarist Mark Olson, who was last in the lineup in 1995, said performing with the band today has a vastly different feel.

The group, touring to support a new CD, “Mockingbird Time,” returned from a run of concerts in England, and Olson said he was surprised by the crowd.

“It was unbelievable in England, there were just tons of people there,” Olson said.

That’s quite a contrast to what he remembers about touring with the Jayhawks his first time around.

“When I was in the band we worked really hard and there was a lot of, in a sense, pushing to try and win and audience,” Olson said. “Now it seems like the fans are there, that over the years, they heard these songs and the songs have lasted.”

Much of his first stint in the group was a grind for Olson and his bandmates, and that created a certain amount of negativity that didn’t help matters, he said.

“When I speak of negativity, it was during the times when we did so many warm-up tours, and it was so difficult for us to get our music heard,” Olson said. “We were playing in front of audiences that really did not (like us). And that was the game and we played it.”

It didn’t take long for Olson to decide he’d had enough of that situation, so he quit the band. Ironically, he left right before the group’s hard work was about to pay off.

At the time the band had gained considerable critical notice for both its third release, “Hollywood Town Hall” and its fourth release, Olson’s final CD with the band, “Tomorrow The Green Grass.” The latter CD featured the single “Blue,” a beautiful ballad with soaring vocals that sounded like a hit.

It wasn’t.

Olson left the Jayhawks, partly out of frustration with the business side of the band, and more to the point, because he had recently married singer/songwriter Victoria Williams and wanted to focus on his life with her.

The couple went on to form a rootsy acoustic group, the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers, and released seven albums before their marriage ended in 2006.

By that time, Olson had already re-connected with the band’s co-founder Gary Louris, although it would be some time before their partnership was fully renewed.

The two first got back together in 2001 to write a few songs for a movie, “The Rookie.” Ironically the songs never got used in the film.

The writing session laid the groundwork for further collaborations, even though Louris was still busy with the Jayhawks (he led the band through three more CDs before the group disbanded after the 2003 CD, “Rainy Day Music”) and Olson was in the thick of his prolific stint with the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers.

Olson and Louris found time to put together a pair of brief tours, one with a small band in 2005 and one as an acoustic duo in 2006. After completing the second tour, they decided to make a CD.

So during summer 2006, Olson and Louris got together for a weeklong writing session that produced the bulk of the material for the CD, but because both Olson and Louris had solo albums in the works (Olson’s “The Salvation Blues” in 2007 and Louris’ “Vagabonds” in 2008), they decided to wait until 2009 to release “Ready For The Flood.”

After that they decided to put together a full-on reunion of the Jayhawks.

The new CD sounds like classic Jayhawks.

“Hide Your Colours” opens the CD on a strong note, offering the closest thing to the winsome beauty of “Blue.”

And while nothing else on “Mockingbird Time” quite rises to that level, there are still a good number of solid songs, such as “Closer To Your Side,” “She Walks In So Many Ways” and “High Water Blues,” where the Jayhawks once again nicely blend their Beatles-esque pop and country/folk influences.

Meanwhile, the harmonies of Louris and Olson -- always a big part of the original lineup’s sound -- soar again throughout “Mockingbird Time.”

The Jayhawks are now in the midst of what Olson expects will be a lot of touring in support of “Mockingbird Time.”

Where the limited number of shows the band did before the new release featured almost exclusively material from “Hollywood Town Hall” and “Tomorrow The Green Grass,” the new shows will branch out considerably beyond those signature CDs.

“We’re going to apply other songs from the (Jayhawks) albums I wasn’t on, to a few Creekdippers songs even, plus the new songs,” Olson said. “We’re hoping to top out at a two-hour show, where we cover something from everything.”