If it ain't broke, why fix it?
The style of The Jawhawks has not radically changed since the Minneapolis band formed in 1984. Their acoustic orientated sound has most commonly been labelled as Alt.Country and/or Americana but if you called it tuneful pop or soft rock you wouldn't be wide of the mark.
Parting company with founding member Mark Olsen was their biggest trauma but they've gone almost a quarter of a century without him with no significant downturn in quality.
An extended hiatus in the mid-2000s could have been interpreted as a sign that all was not well in the camp but their two most recent releases, 2016’s 'Paging Mr. Proust' and 2018’s 'Back Roads and Abandoned Motels' effectively removed any such fears.
XOXO, their 11th album, reveals that the unity within the ranks of the four band members is still as strong as ever and gives an indication that they are well on course towards a fourth decade together.
Gary Louris remains the guiding force but it is the collaborative bond that is very much in evidence with this release. Marc Perlman (bass), Karen Grotberg (keys) and Tim O’Reagan (drums) all take a turn on vocals and share the song writing credits. “It was time to open things up” explains Louris. “The Jayhawks are a true band, one where every-one’s an equal, and we wanted to make a record that really reflected that.”
The album was recorded over two weeks at the secluded Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minneapolis. The twelve songs play to the band's strengths with smooth harmonies, infectious melodies and masterful musicianship.
They may sing of a less troubled world but the subjects of the songs are not stuck in the past. The rock'n'roll driving song, Dog Town Days, has a contemporary edge while Living In A Bubble addresses the risk of being sucked into a virtual online world and losing sense of reality.
There may be an underlying melancholy tone to many of the tracks but they are certainly not here to bring anybody down. Karen Grotberg’s poetic Ruby is rather lovely, O’Reagan/Perlman's Illuminate is luminous and Little Victories has a catchy tune that's a ringer for The Beatles' 'Things We Said Today'.
All this goes to prove that The Jayhawks are a band that was built to last.
The Jayhawks' website