God bless the British summer - it is currently throwing it down in leafy Thunder-Ridge so I thought I'd have a listen to an appropriate album.
Rainy Day Music - by The Jayhawks
The Jayhawks had brought out seven albums by the time this landed in 2003. They had made their name through jangly, acoustic melodic alt-country and this album continues in that vein. Produced by Ethan Johns and Rick Rubin it is a marriage of experienced, successful producers and a band who had honed their craft. Rubin may raise a few eyebrows given his heavy background (Metallica, Slayer, Slipknot) but there is no hint of a harder edged influence on the album. The result is a delight - the whole album is peppered with Byrds style harmonies and a lot could easily come off a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young record which can't be anything but a positive in my book. Gary Louris' vocals have never sounded better and his occasionally earthy rocky delivery offers a neat contrast to the gentle harmonies I alluded to earlier. This is an album which though released in 2003 could easily have been part of the California movement of the 1970s and for some this may prove off-putting. I cannot help but sound hypocritical when I laud The Jayhawks for maintaining a classic rock style whilst deriding The Courteeners for a lack of imagination but the key difference is the quality of songwriting. The Jayhawks have earned the right to indulge their own wishes and you sense this is an album they took great pleasure in putting together. 'Save it for a rainy day' is easily the standout track for me and if you only seek out one song following this review than that is the one. 'Come to the River' is also a noteworthy track which has a rootsy, raw power not commonly found in the rest of the album. An interesting element is when drummer O'Reagan takes over lead vocal duties - on 'Don't let the world get in your way' there is more than a touch of Neil Finn to his delivery and given Johns later produced Crowded House comeback album 'Time on Earth' there is a clear cross-over of styles. Unfortunately the back end of the album fails to offer the same impact as the front six - 'Will I see you in heaven' is something of a return to form but even that track fails to counter the feeling that the album is petering out.
One criticism I would make of the Jayhawks generally is they lack their own distinct identity - as a reviewer I struggle to describe their sound without relating it directly to others and this in my view is the reason why they have not received greater recognition. An hugely enjoyable band they may be but there is no hint of revolution in their output and as a result they fail to sustain interest over the course of a long album such as this.
6 & 1/2 out of 10