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The Jayhawks

Smile – 2014 (American/UME)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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When The Jayhawks "Smile"first came out in 2000, the snobbier elements in the alt.-country underground were calling the Minnesota band Judas for selling out their Americana roots. Bob Ezrin produced it, and wasn't he a guy famous for producing Lou Reed, Alice Coop, Kiss and many other totally twang-less acts?

While this album has plenty of pop elements, you could make the case that "What Led Me To This Town" also has very strong county elements - particularly the echoing electric guitar fills that sound a little like those that infused Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman."

There are moments where you can certainly sense the impact of alternative rock music on these alt.-country darlings. For instance, "Life Floats By" sounds a little like REM sonically. Yet some of its lyrics are devastating. "In my mind, in my soul I never really loved you," Louris confesses in it.

The true treat on this reissue is the strummy, acoustic "A Part of You" demo, which has a George Harrison-y quality and leaves you wondering why it never made the final cut.

Granted, there are better albums than this one in The Jayhawks' catalogue. But what makes The Jayhawks special, was never completely sacrificed to create "Smile," no matter what music tastemakers may have believed back in 2000. "Smile" certainly makes this face happy in 2014.