For the past 30 years, The Jayhawks have been writing a continuing soundtrack to my life. From discovering them through the opening piano notes on Hollywood Town Hall , “Waiting for the Sun”, through the opening lines of “This Forgotten Town” off the new album, XOXO, they continue to build a legacy of getting it right. This album is a reassurance that as long as they continue writing music, I’ll continue incorporating their music into my story.
XOXO showcases a wider range of music than your standard Jayhawks album and the reason is that all the members not only contributed to the songwriting, but also take lead vocals through the album. 2018’s Backroads and Abandoned Motels had both Tim O’Reagan and Karen Grotberg take lead vocals but on this album Gary Louris says “It was time to open things up. The Jayhawks are a true band, one where everyone’s an equal and we wanted to make a record that really reflected that.” “This Forgotten Town” opens with Louris singing but quickly highlights drummer Tim O’Reagan’s ability to not only hang with Louris, but absolutely crush his time on the mic. The harmonies and musicality of the song are signature Jayhawks and lead nicely into the second track, “Dogtown Days”. Both written and sung by O’Reagan, his vocals and songwriting make me look forward to more and wonder if a solo album might be in the works in the future.
In the very personal video for “Living in a Bubble” Louris says that the song “is very apropos for our time” as he performs from the quarantined confines of his living room. It cautions between staying informed and getting bombarded with it all as Louris sings, “ life is full of trouble, what am I to do, Just another day at the zoo.” Apropos indeed Mr. Louris.
Bass player Marc Perlman, has 4 co-writing credits and says “Some songs were molded together from scratch but others had been fully written by one or the other of us.” Perlman continues, “We didn’t worry too much about who penned what, because after all these years of playing together, everything we do just naturally comes out sounding like a Jayhawks song.” Perlman proves that with all of his co written tracks including the first track on the album “This Forgotten Town”.
XOXO is the band’s 11th studio album and first new material since 2016’s Paging Mr Prost. Karen Grotberg, Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, and Tim O’Reagan make up the roots of the Jayhawks but they also invited Stephen McCarthy to play electric guitar and pedal steel, Eric Heywood (Son Volt) on additional pedal steel, John Jackson on violin and mandolin, and Kris Johnson on electric guitar. The album was recorded at both Pachyderm Studios, with engineering by Nick Veitbakk, and Flowers Studios with Engineering by Kris KJ Johnson.
With XOXO signaling a shift in The Jayhawks writing and singing dynamic, I look forward to what future albums may hold for the band that’s held my top 3 spot for almost 3 decades. Each subsequent album seems to shift just enough to be new and exciting, while still feeling exactly like coming home. The new album is now available everywhere online and in all musical formats.