In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “When the song craft is at this kind of level, no one needs to reinvent the wheel.”
Alt country is a genre of music I find myself liking, more often loving, every time I listen to a band or performer who falls under that heading. Wilco, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell (although, he tends to fall under the Americana umbrella these days), and his former band Drive-By Truckers (a combo of alt country and heavy southern rock). When someone recently recommended I listen to The Jayhawks, it was the first I’d heard of them. But now that I see they’ve been around since the mid 80s, and now that I’ve heard The Jayhawks with Rainy Day Music, I’m stoked to all of a sudden have 30 years of music to catch up on from some alt country pioneers.
The jangled guitars and slay bell infused hi-hat starts things in a great, vintage, 60s feel on Stumbling Through the Dar.k. The light, sweetness of the vocal melody, reaching the occasional, impressive falsetto ads to that vibe. It’s a great way to ease into an album, and the perfect setup for the alt-country, harmony filled Tailspin.
When things slow down for the acoustic day dream of a song that is All the Right Reasons, Rainy Day Music might only be three tracks in, but the impeccable song writing of The Jayhawks is already well and truly bona fide. A sign of a great song is one that can still feel big and powerful, with a minimum of instruments and musical support.
There’s a rock, soul feel to Eyes of Sarahjane that really shows off the range of lead vocalist, Gary Louris. Going from a little rock growl, to his high croon exhibited in the earlier tracks, and a few unexpected places in between, Louris’ voice clearly sets the tone for every song, with everything else being built around him.
Don’t Let the World Get In Your Way is straight up a great song The Beatles never wrote. The rich strings and intricate arrangement could fit seamlessly onto any late Beatles record, with Louris even going a little Lennon in his vocal delivery. The second half of Rainy Day Music goes into a more traditional singer, songwriter troubadour with acoustic heavy songs like Madmen, You Look So Young and Tampa to Tulsa. All examples of their biggest strengths laying in their simplicity.
Rainy Day Music never blew my mind with some eye opening new approach to music, or new sound that I’d never heard before. But what the Jayhawks did do with Rainy Day Music, is prove over and over and over again that when the song craft is at this kind of level, no one needs to reinvent the wheel.