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Thursday, April 07, 2016

ROUTES & BRANCHES 
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
April 2, 2016
Scott Foley

I've been populating these pages since 2008 (no need to look at those early efforts, really, though they're there should you feel the need).  To this point, I don't know that I've ever reviewed a Jayhawks record.  I suppose one reason for this oversight is that there have only been two releases since then: The Louris/Olson collab Ready For the Flood in 2008 and 2011's Mockingbird Time.  Despite this fact, I wouldn't hesitate to place the Jayhawks among the pantheon of artists whose music has defined our program.  Hidden away in some dusty drawer somewhere are years' worth of playlists from my very earliest radio broadcasts in Oregon, and I'm confident Louris and co. are among those seminal shows.

Of course, the Jayhawks' Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass are considered by any roots music aficionado as dynamic founding documents with regards to roots music.  While not necessarily on the same level, I would also stand firmly behind both Smile and Rainy Day Music as world class recordings.  Even these "second tier" releases feature classic roots pop moments such as "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" or "Stumbling Through the Dark".  Jayhawks' ninth studio release, Paging Mr. Proust, continues to plead a strong case for Gary Louris as a top shelf writer of pure pop songs.  Fronting a pared down quartet of Grotberg, O'Reagan and Perlman, Louris waves the flag of breezy, primary pop colors on immediate 'hawks hits like "Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces" or "The Devil Is In Her Eyes".  It could be argued that the group has been more rock than roots since Mark Olson's first departure following Green Grass.  Proust is sonically the most eclectic collection of his career, from the sloppy buzz guitar that perfectly disrupts several cuts to unexpected avant funk groove achieved on "Ace".  If only for the sake of a fresh approach, it's a bright idea to enlist Northwest uber producer Tucker Martine and REM's Peter Buck to help chart the musical course.  Aside from Louris' indelible stamp, familiar Jayhawks elements crop up enough to prevent this from being too much of a departure:  The quartet's sweet harmonies, Louris' fondness for literary namedropping, and the occasional whiff of a roots riff on pieces like "Dust Of Long Dead Stars".  Jayhawks have always been more Big Star than Drive-by Truckers, less a polished Son Volt than a  more grounded Wilco.  Paging Mr. Proust shouldn't necessarily be held alongside the band's '92 and '95 masterpieces for judgment, but should rather be appreciated for keeping their sound relevant and alive for another couple years.

- James Hunter Six, "Satchelfoot" Hold On!  (DapTone, 16)
- John Prine, "Storm Windows" Souvenirs  (Oh Boy, 00)
- Bonnevilles, "Arrow Pierce My Heart" Arrow Pierce My Heart  (Alive Naturalsound, 16)
- Esme Patterson, "Feel Right" We Were Wild  (Grand Jury, 16)  D
- Rev Peyton's Big Damn Band, "Devils Look Like Angels" Between the Ditches  (SideOneDummy, 12)
^ Jayhawks, "Devil Is In Her Eyes" Paging Mr Proust  (Thirty Tigers, 16)
- Yarn, "This Is the Year" This Is the Year  (Yarn, 16)  D
- Slobberbone, "Trust Jesus" Bees & Seas: Best of Slobberbone  (New West, 16)
- Parton Ronstadt & Harris, "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind (alt)" Complete Trio Collection  (Rhino, 16)  D
- Sturgill Simpson, "In Bloom" Sailor's Guide To Earth  (Atlantic, 16)
- John Doe, "Sunlight" Westerner  (Cool Rock, 16)
- Robert Ellis, "Drivin'" Robert Ellis  (New West, 16)  D
- Phosphorescent w/Jenny Lewis, "Sugaree" Day of the Dead  (Stats & Brackets, 16)  D
- Cory Branan, "Darken My Door" Mutt  (Bloodshot, 12)
- Jason Isbell, "God Is a Working Man" Southern Family  (Elektra, 16)
- Margo Price, "Tennessee Song" Midwest Farmer's Daughter  (Third Man, 16)
- Dave Insley, "Drinkin' Wine and Staring At the Phone" Just the Way That I Am  (Dave Insley, 16)  D
- Left Arm Tan, "Blacktop Blues" Lorene  (LAT, 16)
- Case/lang/Veirs, "Best Kept Secret" Case/lang/Veirs  (Anti, 16)
- Honeycutters, "Blue Besides" On the Ropes  (Organic, 16)  D
- Hackensaw Boys, "You Want Me To Change" Charismo  (Free Dirt, 16)
- Houndmouth, "Penitentiary" Houndmouth  (Rough Trade, 12)
- Shawn Colvin & Steve Earle, "You're Right (I'm Wrong)" Colvin & Earle  (Concord, 16)  D
- Hard Working Americans, "Opening Statement" Rest in Chaos  (Melvin, 16)  D
- Eric Lindell, "Since June" Matters of the Heart  (Red Parlor, 16)  D
- Michael Kiwanuka, "One More Night" Love & Hate  (Polydor, 16)  D

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