A belated response to their Union Chapel show last month
I have an awful lot to thank Mark Olson and Gary Louris for. Their band, The Jayhawks, were my first Americana heroes and in the fifth form I wore out my cassette of their album Hollywood Town Hall. That record, along with a photo of Evan Dando wearing a Gram Parsons t-shirt on a Lemonheads sleeve, were the chief ingredients mixed in the crucible that formed my love of 'alt.country' (whatever that is/was). Sadly I never got to see Louris and Olson sing their wonderful harmonies together on stage. I think The Jayhawks played in London the day before my English A-level so that was a no-no. By the end of 2005 Mark Olson had left the band.
Since then I've seen both the Louris-led Jayhawks and Mark Olson perform plenty of times but I never thought I'd ever get to see the pair play the songs together that first set my musical taste on a twang trajectory. I'd heard rumours that Louris and Olson had recorded a new album together and at Dingwalls last year I asked Mark Olson if a tour was likely. He was optimistic; I was excited.
And so to a 19th-century Gothic church in Islington a few weeks ago...
Watching two middle-aged blokes with acoustic guitars isn't comparable to seeing a band in their youthful prime but the fantastic reaction to songs they wrote together like Settled Down Like Rain and Over My Shoulder proved that I wasn't alone in being overwhelmed by both nostalgia and enormous affection for the men in front of the pulpit.
Thankfully, a lot of the songs on their new album, Ready For the Flood, are pretty good. They're certainly more Simon & Garfunkel than Gram & Emmylou but you can imagine tracks like Bloody Hands being worked up into full-on country rockers.
Unless you're a Jayhawks fan of old this I can't imagine this reunion would mean much. Perhaps the tracks below might convince you otherwise. Let me know.
Mark Olson - Dingwalls, 17 October 2007