The Jayhawks "Paging Mr. Proust"

The Jayhawks have been one of the reigning bands of alt-country beginning with their eponymous 1986 debut. Over the course of thirty years they’ve expanded their influences, often working in more rock and pop elements. Founders Gary Louris and Marc Perlman have been constants in the line-up, with Mark Olson playing a significant role in the band’s country-leaning sound. Olson left the band in 1995, but returned for the band’s 2011 reunion album Mockingbird Time. The reunion of Olson and the band was short lived as he left following the album’s tour.

Paging Mr. Proust features Louris as the lead songwriter and singer, joined by the aforementioned Mr. Perlman on bass, and three other come-and-go members of the group, keyboardist Karen Grotberg, drummer Tim O’Reagan, and guitarist Kraig Johnson.  Louris co-produces with former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck (fellow R.E.M. bandmate Mike Mills also appears on the album) and Tucker Martine. The trio creates a less rootsy, more exploratory album than what the band normally produces, with psychedelic and edgy influences. Louris lures in longtime fans with “Quiet Corners & Empty Corners” a song that could have come from the height of The Jayhawks alt-country output. The direction changes with “Lost the Summer” a rocker full of gritty guitar licks. The album continues in this fashion with swings between folky melancholy ballads and heavier rock. “Ace” throws down some funky feedback and jagged guitar bordered by slinky keyboard. “Isabel’s Daughter” is a sweet lovelorn piece with Louris’ vocals tailed by plaintive harmonies from the band.

Louris writes uncannily catchy melodies that are tempered by the lingering shadow of melancholy.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)

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