Although the Jayhawks first emerged from the same Minneapolis scene that gave us the Replacements and Husker Du, the group played a different style of music with tunes steeped in roots/country-rock and power-pop. Now, the Jayhawks have just reissued their first five major label recordings on vinyl through American/UME. For the first time, 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall, 1995’s Tomorrow the Green Grass, 1997’s Sound of Lies, 2000’s Smile and 2003’s Rainy Day Music are all available on wax, and the Jayhawks are touring in support the reissues. The lineup includes the players who appeared on the band’s 1997 shows – Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, Tim O’Reagan, Karen Grotberg and Kraig Johnson.
“I was deeply involved [with the reissues],” says Louris, who phoned from a Dallas tour stop. “[As was] P.D. Larson from Minneapolis. He’s been a major component of the rock scene and goes way back the Reader and City Pages. He’s been there from day one with the Replacements and everybody. He’s a friend of mine and an archivist. I had all the tapes and CDs and cassettes and posters. He helped me sort through it.”
While Louris says he’s not one to dwell on the past, he’s still proud of the albums, which marked a shift away from the alt-country sound for which the band was known. They were recorded after the departure of founding member Mark Olson, who shared songwriting duties with Louris.
“Mark obviously was a major component of the band, but I had a lot of songs,” he says of Sound of Lies. “If anything, we had too many songs between the two of us. Kraig brought in a more rock side to it and it clicked. We had a ‘nothing to lose’ kind of attitude. We wanted to make the record even if everybody hated it. I love that record. It’s one record from start to finish that we could play. Every other record has a few songs I wouldn’t want to play.”
With Smile, the band would venture even further away from alt-country.
“None of us grew up listening to traditional music or country rock,” says Louris. “We all listened to rock. And a lot of British rock. I listened to electronic and art rock and that’s what I was doing before I got into a band. I was playing around with that stuff. It felt natural and with the ‘nothing to lose’ attitude we thought we could explore anything with no consequences. It was going to be our last record anyways.”
While the current tour would suggest a new studio could be in the works, Louris says the band is taking things slow.
“I’m a little gun-shy,” he says. “Last time, we wanted to recapture the gold and the chemistry wasn’t there. It was a fiasco and left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m a little wary. I’m trying to think of bands that regrouped and made their best record and the list is very short if any. We’re doing this right now and enjoying it. If we started writing songs and have some material, it would work. The material has to be there rather than us thinking we need to have a new album and writing the album. If there’s stuff that’s just kind of happening, then we’ll do it.”
The Jayhawks, Trapper Schoepp, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, Kent Stage, 175 East Main St., 330-677-5005. Tickets: $30, thekentstage.com.