At Long Last.
One of the fascinating things about late sixties/early seventies country rock is how musically incestuous it was. The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Flying Burrito Brothers, The Eagles, Poco, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, were all related in some way to each other. Gary Louris walks that same path. As founding member of The Jayhawks and Golden Smog, and collaborator/producer on many other artists’ efforts, he has left a trail of music history behind him. It’s hard to believe then, that “Vagabonds” is his first solo album after twenty years of recording. Like his predecessors he has added another step in the ever increasing circle of great Americana artists.
With it’s authentic grit, weepy steel guitars, gospel-like choruses and acoustic focus, “Vagabonds” is not as much a step back for Louris as it is a reclamation of his influential role in this style of music. His experimentation with rock and pop on the last few Jayhawks albums has been put aside and he has crafted an album as good as any he has ever been involved with. “True Blue”, “She Only Calls Me on Sundays” and “D.C. Blues” are concise and melodic alt-country tunes. “I Wanna Get High” and “Omaha Nights” bring tempo and harder edged guitar work to the album and “To Die a Happy Man” is a revelation with its multiple layers of different songs rolled into one.
What separates this from his previous work are the background vocals performed with gospel fervor by “The Laurel Canyon Family Choir.” Consisting of producer Chris Robinson (Black Crowes), Susanna Hoffs (Bangles), Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) and others, their name itself recalls the heyday of the Southern California country rock scene and its collaborative nature. The rich harmonies say it all as they sing in the title song; “Carry on you vagabonds, everyone’s gone away.”
Listen for songs from Gary Louris’ album “Vagabonds” all this week on Paul Shugrue’s new music show “Out of the Box” on Hampton Roads public radio 89.5 WHRV Monday through Thursday from 7pm until 9pm, Saturday afternoon from 1pm to 5pm and on-demand at www.whrv.org/outofthebox.