Classic Jayhawks lineup bringing new songs to the Michigan Theater
That’s certainly true of for the Jayhawks, whose legend has grown to far exceed the fortunes that the band enjoyed when it was first together during the 1980s and '90s and on the front lines of the re-emerging country-rock movement.
The fact is that the Jayhawks, for all of their cult and critical appeal, struggled for commercial acceptance. It wasn’t until the band's two principal partners, Gary Louris and Mark Olson, parted ways in 1995 that the legend of the Jayhawks began to grow.
Now, reunited and with a new album of strong, new material, Olson and Louris are ready to reclaim their legend.
“We seemed to be important to people, although maybe not a lot of people,” Louris recently told Uncut magazine. “I remember our manager saying once that the perception of the Jayhawks is a lot bigger than the reality of the Jayhawks.”
The reconstructed Jayhawks—featuring Olson, Louris and the other members of the band’s classic lineup, bassist Marc Perlman, drummer Tim O’Reagan and keyboardist Karen Grotberg—will appear at the Michigan Theater on Oct. 15. Singer-songwriter Rayland Baxter opens the show.
The Jayhawks are a classic example of a band being greater than the sum of its parts. Neither Louris or Olson are the greatest singers in the world, yet when the pair sing together, something magical happens.
Both singers continued in their own careers following their initial breakup—Olson with then-wife Victoria Williams and Louris carrying on with three very good, although very-different, post-Olson Jayhawks records. And the legacy of the old Jayhawks just continued to grow.“Every night, people would come up to us and say, ‘You guys are great, when are you getting he band back together,’” Louris said.
Now, after some tentative Olson-Louris acoustic dates over the years and a reissue project for high-water-mark records like “Hollywood Town Hall” and “Tomorrow The Green Grass,” it’s finally happened.
The new record mines the same vein band worked during its relative heyday. Olson’s and Louris’ close harmonies are anchored by the band’s timeworn, comfortable Americana groove.
Both Olson and Louris agree that part of the band’s appeal lies in the fact that the two of them have never really reconciled exactly what kind of group it is. That tension between Louris’ vision of a rock band is balanced by Olson’s view of it as a folk group could be the Jayhawks' secret weapon.
“I always fought to control the rock aspect of The Jayhawks,” Olson said. “I’ve always wanted them to be a little more folk than rock, but they’ve always been a little more rock than folk.”
Thankfully, that tension hasn’t dissipated over the years. Although the two have remained close friends over the years, Louris admitted he had to talk his old bandmate into reforming the group.
“He still wanted to go down the folk route and I still wanted to plug in,” Louris said. “But I’d rather do it with him than someone else.”