Blast from the distant PoP past – 15 years on…

THE JAYHAWKS Rainy Day Music (Lost Highway/American)

After the greater pop emphasis of Sound of Lies and Smile, the Jayhawks return to the roots rock approach of their earlier albums (especially Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass) with this, their first album with the Lost Highway label (also home of that other alt-country standard bearer, Ryan Adams).

Generally speaking, this change of approach (albeit a fairly minor one) works wonders as Rainy Day Music at times touches the brilliance of former glories viz. Tomorrow the Green Grass and Sound of Lies with a sequence of excellent songs (mainly penned by chief songwriter Gary Louris) that mark Rainy Day Music as a notable modern rock album.

The opening “Stumbling Through The Dark” (co-written by Matthew Sweet) is gorgeous country-folk which whilst ostensibly is masked in lovelorn terms contains a serious message – “The men who proceeded us here/Left only questions and fears/The vanity formed by beauty lies/You know it’s a crime.” The latter day Byrds evoking “Tailspin” holds even heavier imagery as Louris describes a relationship gone seriously down the tubes – “I’ll be damned though I held your hand/They felt a need to crucify you,” guitar freaks, watch out for the great Neil Young-ish solo!

The dreamy and fragile “All The Right Reasons” finds Louris in reflective mood – “Like a tired bird flying high across the ocean/I was outside looking in/You made me live again” and the poignant “Save It For a Rainy Day” offers a note of encouragement.

References abound no doubt, but CSNY comes strongest to mind with the rocking “Come to the River,” the catchy “Angelyne” and especially the folky “Madman.” Across these three songs, pseudo-spiritual themes surface – “Turned back, had a fall from grace/Now we find each other face to face,” “Hopes haunt me like ghosts/They point their fingers” and “Rage on, rage on my brother/Time to lay down my arms.”

Much to appreciate here for all fans of the alt-country/country rock genre and whilst it sometimes evokes the early 70s a tad too close for comfort, the sheer emotional intensity of the music will win you over. No contest. A


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