Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting Ready for the Flood

Seems we have been hearing about the forthcoming almost-Jayhawk reunion album Ready for the Flood for some time with even a review or two despite the fact that the album isn’t due out until early next year. However, I did notice that the import is coming out in just over a week so it seemed appropriate to do a little pre-release post on Mr. Louris and Mr. Olson.

I am pretty anxious to hear this new effort as I have been recently going back and listening to the early Jayhawk albums which are really quite wonderful. I have also been listening to Louris’ new and first solo album Vagabonds (which I discussed briefly earlier this year) and Olson’s latest solo effort Salvation Blues.

Both of the solo efforts are worth a listen, although neither of them measure up to this duo’s work together. Olson’s album is just a bit too melancholy and barren for me even when he is singing about redemption and that he is now in that happier place. His songs are well-crafted (better than most these days) and the music is fine, but I am just not a huge fan of his vocals on their own. 

The Louris album is stronger I think, although he relies more on arrangements and production that seems closer to Jayhawk style, which might be why I prefer it. There is a better mix of country, blues and rock. He employees some great backing vocals so you get those great harmonies that the Jayhawks have and overall it is just a more interesting disc.

But still, there is not a chance I would pick either solo effort over albums like Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass. These albums, particularly the latter for me, are just solid all the way through with some near-perfect songs to my taste. The singing is beautiful and as I suggested above they are better together than apart. There is something about how their vocals mix that makes their voice in some cases seem wonderfully indistinguishable and in others the perfect counter to each other (dare I say Lennon/McCartney).

They also seem so confident on these albums—not like they know everything, but that they are sure of their intent with the music (which I find a bit missing on their solo efforts). Makes me wonder if that is age or circumstance, or if there is something about them singing together that elicits that quality—we will see. Until then, here are some samples for you to compare.

Salvation Blues – Mark Olson (Buy Album)
Vagabonds – Gary Louris (Buy Album)
Sister Cry – Jayhawks (Buy Album)
Blue – Jayhawks (Buy Album)

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