The histories of some of rock music’s finest outfits have been beset by feuds, rotating line-ups and gradual transformations. From The Byrds to Motorhead the wide scope of the genre adheres to this fact and for the influential ‘alt country’ band The Jayhawks, such occurrences have been particularly prevalent.
However circumstances over the past couples of years have seen the band reunited – as the members, who previously recorded the impressive Tomorrow the Green Grass, have resolved the issues of the past and come together to record Mockingbird Time.
Prior to the album’s release Gary Louris, the band’s guitarist, told Rolling Stone that this was a record for those who ‘love Tomorrow the Green Grass’ while maintaining that it was not merely a ‘mirror image’ of that record. It could be quite easy to merely attempt to entirely recreate the sound that had previously worked so successfully – despite an unfortunate lack of commercial success. However Mockingbird Time does somewhat express a sense of development, despite attempting to hark back to a previous age.
This is most definitely a record that could be accused of being a ‘slow burner’. The opening tracks Hide Your Colours and Closer to Your Side look to open the album in a positive, thrusting manner, however it is not until Tiny Arrows that the record begins to hit its stride. The luscious vocal harmonies truly bring the listener back to what the band have been about for all these years – this track is proof of the talent within this experienced pool of minds. The influence of both the band’s past, as well as those artists who have had a profound impact upon them, are delicately worn on The Jayhawks sleeve to superb effect. It’s original yet comfortingly familiar.
The infectious She Walks in So Many Ways would not sound out of place on a Travelling Wilburys record such is the strength of the pop sensibilities and Orbison-esque harmonies. The contrast between such a heavily groove infused track and the reflective Mockingbird Time is such that it could threaten to unravel the sense of cohesion, however it works to good effect. The piano driven title track ultimately maintains the overwhelming influence of love that devours the record as the words ‘I want to make something for you that brings you joy’ are sung with a sense of conviction.
Black-eyed Susan drives the album towards its conclusion in a forceful manner that broods with a dark intensity – culminating in a violin plying its way through the sounds of harmonies and organs. It, like the album, is a slow burner but ultimately works through the initial trappings to become an excellent track.
Reformations can often result in a significant pay day for very minimal effort. However The Jayhawks have managed to build upon the legacy that they had previously created through the release of Mockingbird Time. While the record is hardly original in its approach and sound, this need not matter as this culmination of influences has served to create the basis of The Jayhawks sound down the years. This isn’t a record that brings instant rewards, however with perseverance the successes of the album are truly expressed to full effect.