Gary Louris/Jump for Joy/Sham/Thirty Tigers
Four out of Five Stars
Gary Louris’ first solo album in over decade is a decidedly low-key affair, one that’s decidedly disengaged from the roots rock sound he helped establish with the band the Jayhawks during the birth of what became engrained within the modern Americana sound. Although it comes on the heels of the band’s most recent LP, XOXO, released just last year, Jump for Joy finds Louris leaning more towards the music he makes with his “other” outfit, Golden Smog, a band whose membership also includes members of Soul Asylum,Wilco, the Replacements, and Big Star.
Some may find it surprising that Louris leans so heavily here on his pop pedigree, an approach that makes songs such as “Almost Home,” “New Normal,” and “Mr. Updike” sound almost giddy compared to his usual fare. Granted, it’s not entirely alien from the Jayhawk’s more jubilant offerings, and indeed, the upbeat optimism of “Follow” and the reflective acoustic strum, stride and shimmering harmonies of “Too Late the Key” would likely find a nice fit within the Jayhawks’ signature sound. Still, to his credit, Louris doesn’t seem as if he’s bound to any particular pastiche.
That makes sense considering the fact in addition to his various day jobs, Louris has also shared his talents with a varied list of collaborators, among them, Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Chicks, The Black Crowes, Uncle Tupelo, Joe Henry, Counting Crows, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams, Roger McGuinn, Nickel Creek and The Wallflowers. Given that résumé, there’s no reason why he would be reticent to make the kind of music that strikes his fancy at any given point in time. The fact that he recorded Jump for Joy entirely on his own suggests he was happy to let his muse take him where it might, without any need to conform to any particular parameters.
As a result, it’s best to listen to Jump for Joy without any preconceived notions. Louris is nothing if not a master of melody and nuance, and his articulate arrangements make this album an utterly engaging experience from start to finish. The music is melodic and unfettered, and that’s cause enough to consider the fact that Jump for Joy actually lives up to its title.