The Jayhawks: Music from the North Country: Anthology

the-jayhawksThe Jayhawks
Music from the North Country
(Sony Legacy)

Minneapolis has birthed a who’s who of great bands including the Replacements, Soul Asylum and Husker Du – just to name a few.

Although the Jayhawks may not have earned the success that some of these bands have, they’ve certainly made their mark on the alt-country music community during the past two decades. Now, the Sony Legacy label has taken heed of the musical importance of the Jayhawks, putting together a beautiful anthology entitled Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology.

Formed in 1985 by singer/songwriters Mark Olson and Louris, the Jayhawks created sweet, honey-soaked melodies by creating a concoction of straight-forward rock, country and folk.

After their formation, the band became a hit in and around their home state and went on to record their self-titled debut in 1986, which was released on Bunkhouse Records.

After Louris nearly lost his life in a car accident, the band went on hiatus until he recovered. During this time, the legendary Minneapolis label Twin/Tone released a collection of the Jayhawks’ demo songs. This would catapult the band into the world of major labels, leading to a contract with Def American Records. They went on to release videos on MTV, which turned into a couple of hit singles in the mid 1990s.

Founder Olson left the band in 1997, after their greatest release Tomorrow the Green Grass. Louris kept the band going, despite a revolving door of band members over the band’s final couple of albums.

Like the grunge-era of music going on in the 1990s, there were many half-assed alt-country imitators that followed in the Jayhawks wake, but none ever measured up. During the Olson/Louris days of the Jayhawks, there weren’t too many bands in their genre that could write music like these guys.

To show the Jayhawks were not only an influential band, but a cut above the rest, last year Louris leaked that he is working on a “Herculean project” of Jayhawks material, which would include the remastering of the Jayhawks’ releases. The first of this mammoth undertaking is Music from the North Country. Being released on the Sony Legacy label, the anthology spans the two-plus decades of the Jayhawks.

With 49 songs, this anthology is bound to please every Jayhawks fan – from the casual listener looking for hit singles including “Blue,” to the diehard fan who knows Twin/Tone-era songs like “Two Angels” and “Ain’t No End.”

The songs, which are as crisp and clear as ever thanks to the remastering, are in the chronological order so you can follow the Jayhawks’ career and see the subtle growth as the years and songs go by.

If you are a long-time fan of this seminal band, you will certainly want to dive in and get the deluxe edition of the anthology, which contains a second disc. This disc features B-sides, unreleased songs, soundtrack songs, compilation offerings and demo versions. The deluxe package also includes a DVD of live footage, music videos and a 20-page booklet.

Over the course of their career, the Jayhawks struggled with lineup changes, label woes and near-death accidents. But one constant in the band was the ability to create music that would, as we now know, stand the test of time.Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology covers an impressive career from one of the most underrated bands to ever come out of the Midwest. Now their powerful and extensive catalog gives the Jayhawks their just due.