Acoustic Rekindling

Two old Jayhawks friends have made amends for a new short tour

Gary Louris may have closed the door on his band, The Jayhawks, last year, but he hasn't left behind many of the songs created by that pioneering alt-country band from Minneapolis during its 20 years of existence.

Louris, now a 51-year-old singer-songwriter and guitarist, joined The Jayhawks in 1985. Another member of that band was Mark Olson, a longtime friend and fellow singer-songwriter. Olson left the band about 10 years later to focus on playing with his wife, Victoria Williams, in the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers. Louris continued leading The Jayhawks for another decade or so.

But almost as soon as he and The Jayhawks decided to call it quits last year, Louris looked up his old pal Olson, and they ended up performing old Jayhawks tunes together during several one-off gigs in 2005.

Now, Olson and Louris are back together to do a two-week concert tour that will kick off in Tucson Friday night, April 28, at the Rialto Theatre. Unlike the concerts last year--which some fans wanted to think were Jayhawks near-reunions--these will be acoustic shows featuring just the duo without backing musicians.

Despite the high interest from Jayhawks fans, many of whom may not have seen the two friends play together since last century, it's just not a big thing for Louris, he said on the phone last weekend.

"It's just going to be two guys who have enjoyed singing and writing songs together, who have made amends."

Asked to describe incidents for which amends needed to be made, Louris graciously sidestepped the question, preferring not to dwell on the past.

"What started as a friendship led to starting a band. The real appeal of this short tour to me is the rekindling of a friendship."

That rekindling is likely enough to capture the attention of fans longing for the magical harmonies of the pair on prototypical country-rock-pop tunes.

Louris said that even though he and Olson played together last year, they haven't seen each other in probably in six months, so last weekend, he had no idea what they would be playing on the current tour.

"We're going to get together Monday," which by the time you read this is a few days past. "We're going to go over songs for a few days, and from there, it'll be a few days of catching up with each other before we have to be playing out every day."

He admitted that the concert will primarily consist of Jayhawks material. "I think Olson might have a few new songs we might try. I don't think my current solo stuff would be a good fit. Lately, I am doing like 45-minute, Krautrock-type instrumentals with one side project I am involved with."

Louris also remains a member of the Minneapolis supergroup Golden Smog, which is expecting the release of its new CD, Another Fine Day, in July. That project also features musicians such as Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Big Star member Jody Stephens.

Fans can also hear some new Louris compositions on Taking the Long Way, the forthcoming album by the Dixie Chicks. "I wrote six songs with them, and four made it to the album." It'll be in stores May 23.

Louris cited constant touring as one of the primary reasons his most famous band broke up. "What the problem was for me with The Jayhawks was doing one thing over and over again. We'd put out one record every three years and then have to tour behind it for a long time.

"We wouldn't be writing any songs. We'd just be playing songs every night that we wrote three years ago."

The Jayhawks had reached a point at which they were no longer simply musicians and songwriters, but entertainers, he said. "That's what touring is, it's being an entertainer every night, and these days in the record business, touring is what it's all about. I am a reluctant entertainer. I enjoy it in small doses."

Will these dates lead to new Olson-Louris collaborations, or maybe a new tour? Hard to predict, Louris said.

"Who knows? Maybe I'll get rejuvenated and want to do other things or go out on the road more. We'll have to wait and see."

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