Despite breakups, reunions, member departures and deaths over their three decades together, Minneapolis band The Jayhawks have continued to make great music, a trend which continues on new album, XOXO. The group that quietly inspired bands like Uncle Tupelo and recorded Americana-tinged classics like Hollywood Town Hall, switches up the songwriting with equal inputs from each of the four current members, while remaining true to their unique sound.
“I think it has bits and pieces of all the different parts of The Jayhawks sounds over the years, so in a way it’s sonically retrospective,” says bassist Marc Perlman, who co-founded the group with lead singer Gary Louris. “What makes it different is that the songs that have Karen (Grotberg) and Tim (O’Reagan) featured more add a completely different aspect that you’ve never heard on a Jayhawks record before.”
One such track, written and sung by keyboardist Grotberg, “Ruby,” floats along a piano melody, evoking somber nostalgia from the end of summer: “Two shadows floating on / The last day of summer.”
This new collaborative spirit on XOXO is a refreshing step that showcases each members’ talents both individually and cooperatively. “This Forgotten Town,” which features lyrics from O’Reagan, Perlman, and Louris, captures the story of decaying American beauty with each singer representing a different perspective. Though their legacy remains understated despite their influence on American indie bands of the late twentieth century, XOXO is further evidence of why their vivid songwriting, storytelling and musical vision has continued to inspire countless artists.
“We were never really that financially successful or overly popular enough where the expectations of us were so high that we couldn’t meet them,” says Perlman. “We are the slow burners.”