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Gary Louris

Vagabonds (Rykodisc)

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Jayhawks and Golden Smog alum Gary Louris has a knack for crafting heartbreaking yet inspiring pop songs. At his best — in 'hawks tunes like "Save It for a Rainy Day," "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," and "It's Up to You" — Louris' songs are so beautiful, they make you want to cry. While his solo debut is a characteristically moving listen, it's not very compelling. In "She Only Calls Me on Sundays," a woman rings up Louris whenever "she's had her fill of red wine and cigarettes and prescription pills." Vagabonds maintains this dispirited tone throughout, and, despite flashes of greatness, it never quite jells. One problem: The stripped-down production by the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson robs the songs of Louris' naturally deft and diverse musicality. Only a few of the tunes are immediately memorable — like the title track and "Black Grass," which evokes the Jayhawks' Sound of Lies. Maybe that's it: Sound of Lies took years to grow on fans. Vagabonds' carefully crafted vibe suggests that perhaps all it needs is some time to age.

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