country birds

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The Jayhawks: ‘new Burrito Brothers?‘

For ten years The .layhawks have trodden their own path between the American indie-rock scene and the more corporate approach of New Country.

The band formed in l985 in Minneapolis. home of influential noise merchants Hiisker Dii who were already laying the foundations of the pop/hardcore crossover that mutated

into grunge. The Jayhawks. meanwhile.

were fiddling around with pedal steel and California country riffs. Not cool. perhaps. but The .layhawks had hit on

sweet. harmony-based sound which had

the critics muttering about the ‘new Burrito Brothers‘.

‘I just think that when Gary [Louris founding Jayhawk] and i sing together. there’s something there.‘ says guitarist Mark Olson. who recently married country singer Victoria Williams.

There followed years of gigging on the back of two modestly successful albums. separated by a temporary. disheartened split. Finally a major breakthough looked likely in 1992 when The .layhawks signed to Def American and recorded the excellent country-rocker Hollywood Town Hall. But the now familiar pattern of critical acclaim and indifferent record sales connnued.

The overnight success of the country- tinged and radio-friendly Counting Crows. on whose debut album Olson and Louris played. must have been a bit galling. Olson is too polite to mention this. but does say wryly: ‘We haven't reached that point where people are sick of us.‘

Now The Jayhawks are in Britain to play songs from their new album Tomorrow The Green Grass. which was produced by George Drakoulias. the guy who gave The Black Crowes their trademark funky Faces sound. However the laid-back ‘Green Grass‘ groove is the result of polished studio jamming. not production wizardry.

‘l lot of the grooves today are just hyper.‘ says Olson. ‘1 hope that ours are more soulful. It's basically just sitting down and writing a song that's pleasing to your own ear. Then we just go into the studio and record the songs.‘ (Eddie Gibb)

The Jay/rers play The Garage. Glasgow on Thursday 22 June

35 The List l6-29 Jun l995

Back to basics

Kenny Mathieson hears

why Robert Cray has gone

back to first principles

Robert Cray is in Helsinki. supporting The Rolling Stones on part of their European tour. The singer sounds relaxed. and seems pretty happy with the way things are going. At the same time. though. he is looking forward to returning to real life when the band

3 swing into their own tour dates. which

includes a visit to Glasgow's Barrowland. a different prospect from the packed stadiums of the Stones behemoth.

‘The dates with the Stones are going

well. I‘ve worked with them a little bit

before. and my management has been working on these dates for a while. We booked our own tour around them. but we play tnuch smaller venues. and while it is great to get the kind of

: exposure we have with the Stones. if you really want to get the music across on a deeper level. then the smaller

venues are definitely preferable.’ A gig at Barrowland is pretty much a back to basics experience in itself. but

i it will fit in nicely with a similar

‘I wanted to go back to just the basic quartet I feel there is more fire behind it.’

philosophy which Cray has brought to bear on his latest album. Some Rainy Morning. After a string of both recordings and tours with The Memphis Horns and a second guitarist. he has gone back to a pared-down

a quartet format made up of his core band of the 90s. with his own voice and l

guitar alongside Jim l’ugh‘s piano and big. swirling soul organ sound. Karl

Sevareid on bass. and drummer Kevin

Hayes. ‘That was a decision I made last July

i when we were tlnnkrng about a new

record. I wanted to go back to just the

3 basic quartet -— I feel there is more fire . behind it. it‘s not a case ofchanging the music so much. because there is still a

lot of R & B as well as blues on there.

bttt the quartet has that raw. basic feel I

wanted. and it is also more flexible in some ways. without being tied to

; complex horn arrangements.

‘We went into the studio and tried to : cut it as close to live as we could. and there are things on there. like ’li'l/ ’l'ltr ' Landlord. that are pretty much first

takes. We wanted to make a record that

; would sottnd like the hand does when I yotr come to hear us live. and l think it . came out pretty good. What it does

; overall is to showcase the voice and the

' guitar a little more than the previous

records. where there was a lot more

3 going on around me.‘

: (‘ray’s singing has always owed a strong debt to southern soul as well as

blues and R N; B. and that is true again

on this disc. notably in cover \ersions of two of his personal favourites.

Wilson l’ickctt‘s ‘Jealons l.o\e' and Sly ' Johnson‘s 'Steppin‘ ()ut‘ (not the same

tune as his buddy lirie ('lapton made famous back in the (ill\ with John Mayall). lie has never chosen to

Robert Cray: soul into blues does go identify himself as a blues purist. and is . unperturbed at incurring the displeasure of those who think bltrcsrncn should j stick to twelve-bar workouts.

‘l don't think about that. and never really did. to be honest. You have to i ask yourself what is that about. tnan twelve-bar blues are cool. sure. I love them too. but there is a whole lot of ; other great nnrsic out there as well. and you can‘t cut yotrrself off from that. ‘I like to call my music R & B rather ; : than blttcs. bill I see what we are doing l more as an expansion of the blues than tnoving away from it. We all love to 5 hear and to play the blues. btrt if music doesn‘t open itself up to change then it dies. l listened to and played a whole lot of music before i got into blues. and I really like soul singers. especially the gospel-influenced soul singers like Bobby ‘Blue' Bland and Sam Cooke. and I think all of that comes out in my music now.‘ The RUIN r/ ( 'my [fund/ritzy (ll littl‘l'ntt'lttttrl. (i/ttsgmr‘. H11 SH! 24.

Original soundtracks

For the past four years, Scotland has marked National Music Day with the

' Festival of Original Music. In the

space of 24 hours (Saturday and

Sunday, noon to midnight), around 30

bands each year, playing everything from jazz to rock and reggae to rave,

: have been strutting their assembled

stuff in the name of originality. The organiser of the charity event is bassist Jake Scott, and he likes to see

the Festival as a stepping stone for


' eagerbands. ‘We don’t have any actual standards

of play,’ he says. ‘What concerns us is

. that they actually write what they do , themselves. If they do that, we have

; nothing to lose by putting them on the show, because we don’t sell tickets on

{ the basis that a band’s going to be in next week’s chart.’

It is, of course, difficult for everyone i to be musically original; every hand is

always compared with another. A former member of Scottish band Writing On The Wall, Scott feels well

I importance in music.

‘I think everybody has conscious and

' subconscious influences. You get direct influences by people ; experimenting with samples, but they

still have to find a lyric and sing. I’m a lyricist with a band myself, and a bass player. I would say that half the bassiines I used to play were not

original, because i was taught the g i rock’n’roll way, and the riffs we ' i tended to use at that time all came ' : out of the same bass book. We thought l we were making them up, but in reality ' a we were only writing the words. In my ' a view, though, if you hear something i i brilliantly original then most people

; don’t understand it. It takes quite a lot

! for Joe Public to catch up with

: placed to determine originality and its t originality.’ (Philip Oorward)


l l The Festival of Original Music takes I I place at the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh on Sat 25 and Sun 25. All 5 I profits go to St Columba’s Hospice. 1