The Jayhawks and their rootsy sound were definitely swimming against the tide when they emerged from a crowded Minnesota music scene in 1985. Over the course of two decades, 9 albums, countless memorable live shows and enough personal drama to fill a couple of Behind the Music episodes, this beloved band soared to heights few ever achieve while winning the hearts and minds of numerous critics, fans and peers in the process.
After releasing two Indie albums in the '80s The Jayhawks signed with American Recordings in 1991 and over the next decade released 5 challenging, at times groundbreaking, albums, toured the world to widespread acclaim and even survived the departure of founding member Mark Olson in 1995. After a hiatus in the mid 2000s, the “classic” 1994 lineup reunited for another new studio album in 2011 and 2 years of solid touring, reacquainting audiences old and new with the band's timeless musical vision. 2014 saw a late '90s version of the band led by Gary Louris hitting the road to support the reissues of the 3 Jayhawks albums released from 1997-2003. This lineup released the band's 9th studio album in 2016, recorded in Portland, OR with producers Peter Buck and Tucker Martine.
Back Roads and Abandoned Motels is The Jayhawks’ tenth studio album and first for Legacy Recordings (who issued the group’s first compilation, Music From The North Country - The Jayhawks Anthology, in 2009 followed by releases of expanded Legacy Editions of the group’s fabled breakout titles - Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass - in 2011). Produced by Gary Louris, John Jackson and Ed Ackerson at Flowers Studio in Minneapolis, Back Roads and Abandoned Motels sets nine songs co-written by Louris with other artists alongside two of Gary’s latest compositions.
Recorded in two vibrant sessions in 2017, Back Roads and Abandoned Motels finds the current incarnation of The Jayhawks - Louris (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars), Marc Perlman (bass), Tim O'Reagan (vocals, drums, percussion), Karen Grotberg (vocals, piano, keyboards), John Jackson (mandolin, violin, acoustic guitar) - going for a lean, simple approach, at times reminiscent of the fabled Rainy Day Music era, while they put their unique spin on these 11 new performances of Gary’s songs. The Jayhawks have long blessed with an abundance of superb vocal talent and on the new album Karen and Tim each sing lead on two songs. Tim performs “Gonna Be a Darkness” and “Long Time Ago” while Karen takes lead vocals (for the first time on a Jayhawks album) on the opener, “Come Cryin’ to Me (which also features a soulful horn section arranged by David Ralicke) and on "El Dorado.”
Back Roads and Abandoned Motels expands the group’s repertoire with brand-new recordings of songs that frontman Gary Louris has co-written with other acts: “Come Cryin’ to Me” (originally released on Natalie Maines’ Mother in 2013); “Everybody Knows” and “Bitter End” (released on Dixie Chicks’ Taking The Long Way in 2006); “Gonna Be a Darkness” (written and performed by Louris and Jakob Dylan for True Blood: Music From The HBO Original Series - Volume 3 in 2011); “Need You Tonight” (originally released on Scott Thomas’ Matson Tweed in 2015); “El Dorado” (originally released on Carrie Rodriguez’ She Ain’t Me in 2008); “Bird Never Flies” (originally released on Ari Hest’s The Break-In in 2007); “Backwards Women” (written with Wild Feathers but never recorded) and “Long Time Ago” (written with Emerson Hart of Tonic but never recorded).