Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology
[Rating: 4 stars]
There’s plenty of country-rock on the two-disc Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology, but it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest that it wasn’t country-rock they were best at. A key ’90s No Depression band, The Jayhawks hinted at country on some of the early tracks collected here — their own “Falling Star” and a cover of John D. Loudermilk’s “Break My Mind” — and Gary Louris’ guitar playing incorporated elements of pedal-steel techniques. For all that, Louris and Mark Olson wrote songs that more often than not derived from British Invasion pop. “I’d Run Away” sounds uncannily like a Jeff Lynne song, while “Trouble” plays like a Minnesota version of “All the Young Dudes” and Louris’ “Big Star” is a dead ringer for Teenage Fanclub. The Jayhawks never quite made it to the big time, and that’s an injustice — they had superbly detailed arrangements and a fine sense of classic pop songcraft. “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” sports an actual middle-eight, just like Lennon and McCartney used to concoct. The accompanying DVD has some nice interview and live footage; the videos reveal only that these guys married image to sound no more wisely than any other group of mortals.