10 Years Ago: The Jayhawks’ ‘Rainy Day Music’ Album Released
The Jayhawks’ sonic footprint can be traced all the way back to 1986 — but most rock fans remember the group for a pair of master-crafted ’90s albums: ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ (1992) and ‘Tomorrow the Green Grass’ (1995). The latter spent nine weeks on the Billboard charts, due in part to radio airplay for single ‘Blue.’ and both records have been widely acclaimed as two of the era’s best.
The “classic” lineup of the band featured the core songwriting team of Gary Louris and Mark Olson, who shared guitar-playing and vocal duties. (Their singing styles match in a very Flying Burrito Brothers sort of way.) But in 1995, seemingly at the height of their popularity, Olson exited the band, leaving Louris to carry on by himself under the Jayhawks moniker. (That same year, Louris wound up gaining drummer Tim O’Reagan, who has been a full-time member and integral part of the band ever since, but we’ll return to him in a few.)
The Olson-less Jayhawks lineup produced two so-so records, 1997’s ‘Sound of Lies’ and 2000’s ‘Smile,’ but it wasn’t until ‘Rainy Day Music,’ released 10 years ago today, that the band truly touched on its past glory.
‘Rainy Day Music,’ which remained on the Billboard charts for six weeks and peaked at No. 51, the band’s best showing to date, was chock full of top-of-the-line Louris songs (‘Save It For a Rainy Day,’ ‘Angelyne’) — with plenty of nods to the Byrds (‘Stumbling Through the Dark,’ co-written with ‘90s auteur Matthew Sweet) and Crosby, Stills & Nash (‘Madman’). Production duties were handled by Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon), while Rick Rubin, whose Los Angeles-based Def American had released ‘Town Hall’ and ‘Green Grass,’ served as executive producer.
Perhaps the most welcome surprise on the album is how much O’Reagan’s contributed. His ragged harmonies fit in a way Olson’s never did, and the two tracks he brought to the album — ‘Tampa to Tulsa,’ which has since become a staple in the Jayhawks’ live set and been covered live by Bon Iver, and ‘Don’t Let the World Get In Your Way,’ a song O’Reagan had recorded for a solo album as ‘Girl/World’ but redrafted here to much greater effect — are among his finest.
Watch the Jayhawks’ video for ‘Save It for a Rainy Day’