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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/7/2011 (3201 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The grass is still green for the Jayhawks.
Two years after the classic lineup of the Minneapolis country-rock group reunited, the quintet is still together and has recorded new material for a forthcoming album, tentatively titled Mockingbird Time.
The reunion occurred organically over the course of several years, vocalist-guitarist Mark Olson says, and since there was no animosity when the band split up, it was easy to get things going again, especially since he and co-frontman Gary Louris had been working together for three years prior to the full-fledged reunion.
"It wasn't so drastic. Gary and I made a record on our own, Ready for the Flood, a few years ago and we've done some touring on our own and with the band over a two-year period. It was a natural thing to put out a new album. There's still interest in the group," Olson says.
Releasing a new album seems to be an exception to the reunion rule with bands like the Pixies, Police, Rage Against the Machine and Pavement getting back together to rehash their back catalogues without releasing new material other than the occasional single.
Olson left the Jayhawks to move to California with his wife, Victoria Williams, after the band's second major label album, 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass. He was looking for a change after a decade slogging it out in the music trenches and found it in Joshua Tree, he says.
"When I left the band I wanted to have a different life than the band lifestyle. I moved out West and fixed up a house, but was always writing music," he says.
The Jayhawks formed in 1985 in Minneapolis with a sound far removed from what was popular in the Twin Cities at the time when Husker Du, the Replacements and Soul Asylum were rewriting the punk rock rules. Olson, Louris, basic Marc Perlman and drummer Norm Rogers got together and merged their love of country, rock and folk, along with a distinctive knack for harmonies, to come up with a distinctive sound far removed from what was happening downtown.
"I always liked folk music. I had an acoustic guitar and there were no openings in the punk world at all. I got together with Gary and he could play some country stuff so we started there and moved in lots of different directions. There was just an idea to try something different," Olson says.
"When we first started we did play the rock clubs. At first we felt a bit of resistance, but there were these bars on the West Bank in Minneapolis and there was a blues scene made up of guys like Willie Murphy and John Beach who played on Bonnie Raitt's first records, so we went over there."
By 1991 they had attracted the attention of the major labels and they made the jump to Def American (later to be known as American Recordings) with 1992's Hollywood Town Hall, a favourite amongst fans, along with their next release, Tomorrow the Green Grass.
Those albums recently got the reissue treatment and fans should expect to hear some of those songs when the Jayhawks return to the Winnipeg Folk Festival tonight for the first time since 1988. They help kick off the expanded five-day festival with a slot between Hamilton singer-songwriter Melissa McClelland and Toronto roots-veterans Blue Rodeo, who are performing their entire Five Days in July album in its entirety.
The Jayhawks continued on without Olson for three more albums before calling it quits in 2004. The band folk fest attendees will see is most of the Tomorrow the Green Grass lineup with Olson, Louris, Perlman, keyboardist Karen Grotberg and drummer Tim O'Reagan, who didn't play on the album, but joined for the tour.
Because the group never followed trends or the musical styles of the day its music still holds up. Timeless might be too strong a description for someone as humble as Olson, but he does concede the music was inspired by music the band members themselves considered timeless.
"I think that just comes from the people involved in the group. They wanted to write the best songs possible. I don't think there's a lot of strategy involved. I think in any band you're going to sing the way you sing and play the way you play. For me it's been about trying to capture things in life," he says.
"There's a lot going on. It's good to have a lot going on. It's the Byrds thing, or the Bible: 'Everything turn, turn, turn.' I like that."
Tonight 8 p.m.
Winnipeg Folk Festival
Tickets: $51 or $210 for five-day pass