12 Songs, 49 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

As a leading member of alt-country pioneers the Jayhawks, Gary Louris has become synonymous with the genre’s virtues and vices. His calm demeanor, his eloquent, understated observations, his use of Americana wanderlust symbolism (“Omaha Nights,” “Meandering,” "D.C. Blues”) all come backed with spare acoustic guitar, smooth, full-bodied organ, strokes of pedal steel and laid-back ‘70s-styled harmonies that owe as much to the Grateful Dead and Crosby, Stills and Nash as they do to actual country music. Louris has always been more pop craftsman than the Midwestern cowboy his image suggests. Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson oversees the production duties for Louris’ solo debut and his job mostly keeps the guests freely circulating (the Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs and Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis are among the backing vocalists). A beautiful vocal delay haunts “Black Grass.” The sweet country gait of “She Only Calls Me On Sundays” recalls the aching loneliness of a Jimmy Webb tune. The tight ensemble choir of “We’ll Get By” evokes ‘70s AM country-soft-rock. Replace the 2008 copyright date and affix 1974 and few would argue the difference.

EDITORS’ NOTES

As a leading member of alt-country pioneers the Jayhawks, Gary Louris has become synonymous with the genre’s virtues and vices. His calm demeanor, his eloquent, understated observations, his use of Americana wanderlust symbolism (“Omaha Nights,” “Meandering,” "D.C. Blues”) all come backed with spare acoustic guitar, smooth, full-bodied organ, strokes of pedal steel and laid-back ‘70s-styled harmonies that owe as much to the Grateful Dead and Crosby, Stills and Nash as they do to actual country music. Louris has always been more pop craftsman than the Midwestern cowboy his image suggests. Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson oversees the production duties for Louris’ solo debut and his job mostly keeps the guests freely circulating (the Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs and Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis are among the backing vocalists). A beautiful vocal delay haunts “Black Grass.” The sweet country gait of “She Only Calls Me On Sundays” recalls the aching loneliness of a Jimmy Webb tune. The tight ensemble choir of “We’ll Get By” evokes ‘70s AM country-soft-rock. Replace the 2008 copyright date and affix 1974 and few would argue the difference.

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About Gary Louris

Long before rising to prominence as leader of the insurgent country group the Jayhawks (and the all-star collective Golden Smog), Gary Louris grew up in Toledo, OH, where he took piano lessons as a youngster. When he was 14, his mother gave him a classical guitar, suggesting he could bring the instrument to parties and become more popular. He started writing songs in college, but it wasn't until he had graduated that he purchased his first electric guitar. In the early '80s, Louris joined the group Safety Last.

Vocalist/guitarist Mark Olson, who had been in a rockabilly band called Stagger Lee, and Marc Perlman from the Neglectors had formed the Jayhawks in Minneapolis by early 1985, playing their first show in front of a small crowd. Louris happened to be in the audience and, after hitting it off with his future songwriting partner Olson, joined the band. The Jayhawks released their debut album in 1986, pressing only a few thousand copies. The group's popularity grew and Olson and Louris started to work as a songwriting team. In 1988, Louris was injured in a nearly fatal automobile accident and the band went on hiatus. Meanwhile, in 1989, Twin/Tone Records released Blue Earth, a collection of overdubbed and remixed demos that became a critical success. Louris soon rejoined the rejuvenated band.

The band was signed to American Records for their breakthrough album, 1991's Hollywood Town Hall, and scored an opening slot on tour with the Black Crowes. However, shortly after the next album, Tomorrow the Green Grass -- which featured the successful single "Blue" -- Olson left the band. With Louris at the helm, the Jayhawks released 1997's Sound of Lies and 2000's Smile. The albums represented a move away from the band's trademark country rock, experimenting with pop and different sonic landscapes. Although the Jayhawks took an extended (and possibly permanent) break in 2005, Louris continued experimenting with different genres, even writing material for the Dixie Chicks' Grammy-winning effort Taking the Long Way. He also launched a solo career, teaming up with co-producers Thom Monahan and Chris Robinson to fashion the sounds of 2008's Vagabonds. Meanwhile, he continued his membership in the all-star roots rock collective Golden Smog, having played with the band since the release of their debut EP in 1992. ~ Erik Hage

  • ORIGIN
    Toledo, OH
  • GENRE
    Rock
  • BORN
    March 10, 1955

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