CD Review: The Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time (September 20, 2011)

The Jayhawks/Mockingbird Time/Rounder Records
by Julie Watson

Featuring both founding members Gary Louris and Mark Olson, as well as much of the “classic” band line up, Mockingbird Time reminds us of why we loved these Minnesota alt-country rockers in the first place with songs like the opening psychodelic-Beatle-esque “Hide your Colors”, the 60s influenced “Closer to Your Side” and the catchy, jangly pop refrains of “She Walks in So Many Ways.” Although not every song is a hit, and there are even a few small disappointments, listening to this release, particularly Louris’ and Olson’s lovely harmonies and skillful instrumentation, will make you glad the band is at it again.

Many cuts on this CD have a British Invasion feel, but its tempered with an overriding American sensibility, so that the result is more Byrds than Beatles. The Jayhawks never stray completely from the rootsy, rock-tinged sound that originally earned them their “alt” label. Hailed as Americana innovators when they arrived on the national music scene in the 90s, the band’s music influenced many artists that followed. Interestingly, while a song like “Tiny Arrows” bring to mind CSN&Y, the title track from this release is reminiscent of the young and hugely popular Avett Brothers, making you wonder if that influence has come full circle. Mockingbird Time deserves repeated listening to be fully appreciated, as the songs seem to better reveal themselves over time, each successive play divulging another facet of this very talented and quintessentially American band.

Republished with permission from The Current

Views: 495

Tags: Gary Louris, Mark Olson, The Jayhawks

Comment by dutchtwang on October 22, 2011 at 1:15am
Listen to highlight Tiny Arrows in the Altcountrynl-playlist (Spotify)
Comment by JeffK on October 25, 2011 at 11:09am
Nice review.  I agree that the CD deserves repeated listenings, although I have yet to fall in love with this album as much as I have done for their previous albums.  But maybe that will come with time.  Thanks.
Comment by Matthew Wester on October 25, 2011 at 3:43pm

As a pretty serious Jayhawks fan since the early 90s, I have to disagree with this review.  I am deeply disapointed in this record.  For me, both the songwriting and the harmony singing fall far below the admittedly high standards the Jayhawks set for themselves both with and without Mark Olson on previous albums.    Olson's voice has become more and more ramshackle and its just not blending with Louris' like it used to.  Karen Grotberg voice is almost absent from the vocal blend, too, which is a shame, she did some great vocal parts on the Tomorrow The Green Grass album.  The songs on Mockingbird Time were not crafted and carefully refined, from what I've read, but were written and recorded quickly and for me the results are not surprising; the songs are just not that strong.  Others have suggested the balance between Louris' pop song structure and Olson's ramshackle off-the-cuff approach has leaned too heavily towards Olson's tendencies and I agree.  I suppose fans of Olson's solo work will like this record more than those who are bigger fans of Louris'.

I am glad for the success they seem to be enjoying right now, they truly deserve it, but for me, this record pales in comparison to almost every other record they've put out.

Comment by Julie Wenger Watson on October 25, 2011 at 4:06pm
Hi! Thank you all for commenting. I'm new to this and not sure if this is how I respond. I really appreciate all of the input. Matthew - I completely understand your comments. In fact, I struggled with this review a bit when writing it as an assignment from The Current When I first put in the CD, I was a little disappointed. It didn't immediately grab me. However, I did go on to listen more and with full attention to the music (as opposed to while I was doing a zillion other things), and I found that, for me, there was more to like than I had originally thought on first listening. I think all of your points are very valid. Jeff, I think you are thinking along those lines, as well. I had pretty tight word limitations for that review from the magazine. I think a longer review, focusing on many of the issues Matthew raised, would give a better and more accurate picture, especially for the hard core Jayhawk fans. With my original audience (broad) and the space limits, I tried to hit on the things I found likable about the CD (there were many) because I did enjoy it. However, the No Depression audience is made up of serious music fans (and serious Jayhawks fans) and a longer review would have provided the opportunity to bring up all of the points you addressed.  Oops!  I've rambled ! Thanks!
Comment by Matthew Wester on October 25, 2011 at 4:20pm

Sorry if I sounded harsh in my comments, Julie.  I understand the situation a writer of a professional review is in with the space limitations and all that and I can see the balance you were trying to strike.  I'm just really disappointed with this record and I don't feel like pulling any punches with my comments.  I think alot of people are so happy the classic lineup of the Jayhawks is back that they are very willing to just let the band be what it is today.  I'm just not one of them.  I have tried really hard to like this record, listening to it over and over but my opinion of it has not changed.  My opinon is probably in the minority, but I know there are other long-time fans who feel the same as me about this new record.  We can always go back to Jayhawks records that we love, and that's just what I've been doing.  I also don't begrudge anyone who likes this record their enjoyment of it, I'm glad they do.  Cheers to the Jayhawks for giving it another shot, I just wish I liked their current stuff, its hard to be disappointed by one of my favorite bands.

Comment by Julie Wenger Watson on October 25, 2011 at 6:13pm
You didn't sound harsh at all. I think your opinion is very interesting, and from what I've read while doing research for another article previewing The Jayhawks' upcoming show in town, you are not the only one that holds it. There are a number of reviews out there that expressed a similar sentiment - many of those writers are longtime fans, like you. The band is playing the Cain's Ballroom (one of my all time favorite venues!) in Tulsa in November.  I am planning on going.  I am very curious about how this will all sound live.
Comment by chris sweeney on October 25, 2011 at 7:00pm

I bought the deluxe edition with the DVD and found the commentary about the songs to be very interesting and helpful to know where they were coming from on this CD. I did not dislike it on first listen but have grown to enjoy it more with repeated listens.

This was not untrue with their early work for me, truth be told.

Looking forward to two of their shows in Texas next month.

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.