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The Jayhawks is an American alternative country and country rock band that emerged from the Twin Cities music scene during the mid-1980s. Led by vocalists, guitarists and songwriters Gary Louris and Mark Olson, its country rock sound was influential on many bands who played the Twin Cities circuit during the 1980s and 1990s like Uncle Tupelo, the Gear Daddies and the Honeydogs. They have released ten studio albums with and without Olson who left the band in 1995, including five on the American Recordings label. On hiatus from 2005 to 2009, the 1994–1995 lineup of the band reunited, releasing the album, Mockingbird Time, in September 2011. After the tour, Mark Olson again left the band. After another hiatus in 2013, the 1997 lineup led by Louris reunited to play shows in 2014 to support the reissue of three albums released between 1997 and 2003. The band has remained active touring and recording since, including the release of the albums Live at The Belly Up in 2015, Paging Mr. Proust, produced by Peter Buck in 2016 and Back Roads and Abandoned Motels in 2018.
The Jayhawks was formed in 1985 by Mark Olson (acoustic guitar and vocals), Gary Louris (electric guitar and vocals), Marc Perlman (bass) and Norm Rogers (drums). Their first album, The Jayhawks, was released by Bunkhouse Records, a small independent label, in 1986. Their music at the time, mostly written by Olson, showed a strong roots/country rock influence. Rogers left and was replaced by Thad Spencer, and the band worked for the next years on demo tapes in search of a major label recording contract. During this period, Louris left the band briefly (following a car accident) and Dan Gaarder replaced him. Louris returned, and the collected demos from 1986 to 1989 were brought together to create Blue Earth, released on the Minneapolis label Twin Tone in 1989. On this album Louris shared more of the songwriting with Olson. After touring the U.S. in support of Blue Earth, Spencer left the band and was replaced in 1988 by Ken Callahan, who stayed with the band until 1993. In 1991, Dave Ayers, the president of Twin Tone, was on a phone call with A&R representative George Drakoulias of Def American while Blue Earth played in the background. Drakoulias asked about the music and eventually met with and signed the band to the label later that year.
2014 saw new activity from the band once again. The final phase of the career-spanning reissue project started in 2009 commenced in the summer of 2014 with the reissue (on CD and LP) of the three albums the band made after Olson left in 1995: Sound of Lies (1997), Smile (2000) and Rainy Day Music (2003). The reissues, on American Recordings/UME, feature bonus tracks, new liner notes and fresh remastering from original analog sources by Vic Anesini. Deluxe two-LP vinyl editions were also released; this was the first vinyl release in the U.S. of Smile and the first time vinyl copies of Sound of Lies and Rainy Day Music had been available after having been long out of print. Most of the 1997 touring lineup (Louris, Perlman, O'Reagan, Grotberg and Johnson) toured in 2014 and 2015 to support the reissues, concentrating on material from the 1997–2004 era of the band that had largely gone unplayed in concert for over a decade. The band released Live at the Belly-Up, a digital-only album on April 7, 2015.
The band announced in September 2015 that they were recording a new studio album with the 2014–2015 lineup. The album was recorded in Portland, Oregon, with Peter Buck from R.E.M and Tucker Martine producing. In January 2016 The Jayhawks announced on their Tumblr account that their new album would be titled Paging Mr. Proust and it was released on April 29, 2016 on Thirty Tigers. Kraig Johnson left the band again before the release of Paging Mr. Proust. Jeff "Chet" Lyster was added as a touring member on guitar, pedal steel and background vocals prior to the 2016 tour.
The band collaborated with Ray Davies, formerly of The Kinks, for an album released in April, 2017 titled Americana, based on Davies' experiences in the USA. The Jayhawks also backed Wesley Stace on his 2017 album Wesley Stace's John Wesley Harding. Norm Rogers, the band's drummer from 1984 to 1988, died on February 19, 2018.
2018 saw The Jayhawks backing Ray Davies again on his album Our Country - Americana Act II (released June 2018) as well as releasing their own album Back Roads and Abandoned Motels (July 2018). The band also recorded "What Would I Dreamer Do?" for the compilation album Forever Words, setting lyrics by Johnny Cash to music for the first time. On July 13, 2018 the Jayhawks released Back Roads and Abandoned Motels on Sony Legacy Recordings label, featuring new fifth member John Jackson, who co-produced the album and served previously as a touring member on some tour dates since 2014.
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