The Jayhawks – XOXO

Album Review | Sham/Thirty Tigers | Review by Allan Wilkinson

It doesn’t seem all that long ago since The Jayhawks could be seen on MTV rubbing shoulders with Nirvana and the Black Crows, casually waiting for the sun, with all that road going and all that hair!  It may come as a surprise that the band actually began their long journey over 35 years ago and it’s good to know that they’re still going strong.  XOXO is the band’s eleventh album release, created by its surviving members Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, Tim O’Reagan and Karen Grotberg and is the first album to recognise each of their songwriting abilities, with each member of the band contributing their own material and taking lead vocal responsibilities, yet maintaining the overall and very distinct Jayhawks sound.

That trademark sound is all in place throughout the album, with one or two surprises, “Living in a Bubble” for instance, with it’s piano-led melody reminiscent of the late Emitt Rhodes, complete with McCartney-esque harmonies, an anthem for our times perhaps?  There’s nothing ‘run of the mill’ or ‘resting on one’s laurels’ on XOXO, with an almost tangible breath of fresh air weaving through the dozen songs.  Karen’s sensitively delivered “Ruby” and “Across the Field”, work in perfect contrast to the radio pop catchiness of Tim’s “Dogtown Days” and “Society Pages”, or indeed the immediately identifiable Jayhawks drenched opener “This Forgotten Town”.  XOXO is not only a successor to the band’s most recent projects Paging Mr. Proust and Back Roads and Abandoned Motels, but probably outranks them both considerably, especially in terms of being the result of a band working together in the way that bands ideally should.

Choice Track: Dogtown Days (NSV 504)