Mark Olson and Gary Louris


Friday, October 10, 2014
Mark Olson & Gary Louris – “Bloody Hands” from Ready for the Flood (2008 (Europe)/2009 (US) New West)


If a better album than the Jayhawks’ 1995 Tomorrow the Green Grass ever came out of Minneapolis, I sure hope someone will let me know about it. To me, it’s a perfect album, owing much to the ridiculous compatibility of frontmen Mark Olson and Gary Louris’ voices.

Fourteen or so years later, when I heard they’d recorded another album together, I was thrilled. To be sure, it’s not the masterpiece that Tomorrow the Green Grass was, but who’s complaining?

Stylistically things are fairly different as well, far more stripped down and centered around acoustic guitars. “Bloody Hands” sounds at first like something Appalachian, almost bringing to mind the bluegrass murder ballads of Doc Watson.  The lyrics support this reading, as they tell the tales of four fairly cold-blooded murders, followed by the refrain, “what the mind forgets / the soul reclaims / all my love’s in vain.” I don’t pretend to understand what the forgetting or remembering of murders has to do with the usefulness of love, but god damn if it isn’t a beautiful, haunting lyric anyway, perfectly appropriate to the tune.

There is a guitar lick (is that what they’re called?) buried in here that sounds just like one of these neo-indie-folk-turned-mainstream-folk that’s blowing up the kinds of radio stations that people who watch The Voice listen to, but I can’t for the life of me place it, which I suppose is a point in my favor. No surprise, really, as these two really set the alt-country/roots music table for the charlatans that followed.

Sad news, though, these dudes hate each other now, and the Jayhawks will never be the same.