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The Jayhawks: Tiny Desk Concert

Tiny Desk Concert with The Jayhawks. (NPR)closemore
Tiny Desk Concert with The Jayhawks. (NPR)

The last song in this set from The Jayhawks is called "Comeback Kids." Although it's ostensibly a breezy portrait of a lovers' reunion, the title could be the motto for a band that's been through so many breakups, re-formations and personnel changes in the past 30 years that Wikipedia resorted to an infographic timeline to capture the myriad details.

Yet the essential Jayhawks sound — jangly, country-tinged rock with exquisitely crafted hooks and close harmonies — remains solid, due largely to founding member Gary Louris, who continues to dominate the singing and songwriting. The band's new album Paging Mr. Proust, from which they chose four songs for this Tiny Desk concert, sounds like vintage Jayhawks.

"Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces," with its carefree, sing-along chorus, may sound lightweight, but it's actually a plea to live more in the moment ("In the end, there's no waiting redemption"). It could fit perfectly into the lineup on Rainy Day Music, the band's impeccable 2003 album.

Summer heat is palpable in "Lovers Of The Sun." The dreamy, '60s-tinged number is all California laid-back — but also brushed with a tint of melancholy, thanks in part to the colors that guitarist Chet Lyster conjures with his EBow. With its silken harmonies, the song is reminiscent of tracks like "It's Up To You" from The Jayhawks' 1997 album Sound Of Lies.

Although "Leaving The Monsters Behind" was collaboratively written by most of the band members, one can't help making a direct connection to Louris, who has been frank about his recent, and successful, stint in rehab for opiate addiction. Again, a jaunty refrain, delivered in polished three-part harmony, belies darker lyrics: "If I move fast, maybe I'll outrun my past." The song could also be just another reflection of the ups and downs of a beloved band whose singular career began in Minneapolis in 1985. In any case, The Jayhawks has outrun the past and steps into a fourth decade sounding vital as ever.

Paging Mr. Proust is available now. (iTunes) (Amazon)

Set List

  • "Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces"
  • "Lovers Of The Sun"
  • "Leaving The Monsters Behind"
  • "Comeback Kids"

The Jayhawks

Gary Louris (guitar, vocals)

Karen Grotberg (piano, vocals)

Marc Perlman (bass)

Tim O'Reagan (drums, vocals)

Chet Lyster (guitar, vocals)

Credits
Producers: Bob Boilen, Tom Huizenga, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Claire Hannah Collins, Morgan McCloy; Production Assistant: Sophie Kemp; Photo: Ruby Wallau/NPR.

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Copyright NPR 2016.

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