Music News

Critic's Choice

It's been a while since anyone outside of Minneapolis has heard anything much from The Jayhawks, who appear Saturday, April 29, at the Boulder Theater with Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise. After the release of 1997's Sound of Lies -- and during a time when Wilco, Son Volt and some of the city's other country-flavored bands began enjoying a modicum of commercial recognition to match what they'd reaped from critics -- guitarist/vocalist Gary Louris and his revolving cast of players decided it was time to break for a little creative regrouping. While some thought the prolonged hiatus meant a permanent break for the band, Louris and company are back, with Smile -- to be released on Sony in early May -- and a national tour. Less introspective than the moody Sound of Lies, Smile finds the 'Hawks returning to the folkified sound that first established them as some of the more creative architects of neo-country; it's highlighted throughout by Louris's notorious gift for vocal harmonies and the expert piano playing of ex-Dag member Jen Gunderman. Haunting, lovely, sometimes gritty, Smile reminds us why the Jayhawks mattered in the first place. Considering the infrequency of the band's live shows, Saturday's performance provides a rare opportunity for fans to experience the new material in a live setting. Don't miss it.