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For The Jayhawks, no reissues needed

Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass., October 27, 2014

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

The Jayhawks have not released any new music since 2011's "Mockingbird Time," but, well actually, there are reasons for one of the key contributors to the alt.-country music.

In July, "Sounds of Lies" (1997), "Smile" (2000) and "Rainy Day Music" (2003) saw the light of day again in expanded reissue versions.

Thus, the chance for the band to hit the road this month and effectively push the reissues. Truth be told, though, they only played one song from the reissues - "Tailspin," the closing song to the regular set - that was not on the original recordings.

No matter because The Jayhawks trotted out their alt.-country and poppier sides as a band that has aged quite well from the good table setter opener of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" to such touchstones as "Waiting for the Sun" and "Blue."

The Jayhawks, circa 2014, is the 1997 touring band. That means Gary Louris on lead guitar and most vocals; Tim O'Reagan on drums; Kraig Johnson on guitar; Marc Perlman on bass and Karen Grotberg on keyboards plus John Jackson on mandolin. And no Mark Olson.

Louris is the ostensible leader with his pleasant vocals. He was not (and never has been) an overpowering singer, but this is a band that tends to grow into the song, at times extending the songs to good effect. The easy going Louris wasn't always all that easily understandable when he chatted with the sedate crowd. He showed his humorous side early on when he joked, after a slight miscue, about writing a book about touring, alluding to the foibles of doing so as an older musician.

While Louris also sparked a good chunk of the songs from a variety of Jayhawks releases with sharp guitar picking, this was most definitely a group effort. Grotberg shined on the most straightforward country song of the night, Harlan Howard and Billy Walker's "I'm Down to My Last Cigarette," while O'Reagan took several very strong vocal leads as did Johnson, who resurrected a few songs ("Looking Forward to Seeing You" and "Jennifer Save Me") from the side project band Golden Smog.

O'Reagan also was especially effective in backing and harmonizing with Louris.

At times, The Jayhawks turned it up a notch or two, opting for a more rocking sound. Like having four different lead vocalists, the different aural paint brushes served The Jayhawks well.

Opening act Trapper Schoepp & The Shades were simpatico with the headliners. In fact, a song or two of the Milwaukee group sounded like something out of The Jayhawks' playbook. Schoepp, aided by some solid fiddling from Gina Romantini, built his audience as he went along, deservedly so.

This was an unrushed night of music from The Jayhawks that culminated in the fine closer of Golden Smog's "Until You Came Along" aided by the openers. No need to rely on reissues to tour. Label this a satisfying night of music.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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