September 22, 2020

The Jayhawks – Back Roads and Abandoned Motels – Sony

By Kristi Kates | Sept. 22, 2018

“Abandoned” is an apt descriptor for this kinda new collection from The Jayhawks. It consists of the band’s own versions of tunes that were originally written for other artists. Familiar with The Dixie Chicks’ track “Everybody Knows”? That’s a Gary Louris original (Louris is The Jayhawks’ frontman). Same with “Gonna Be a Darkness,” which was recorded by Louris and Wallflower Jakob Dylan for an HBO series. It’s interesting to compare the band’s versions of these songs with the first-heard renditions; in most cases, both stand well on their own. ***

Passenger – Runaway – Nettwerk
Mike Rosenberg — i.e., the rootsy, smooth voice of Passenger — might be based in Brighton, England, but it was life in America the beautiful that inspired this album. The result is a road-worthy, propellant collection of tunes that crisscrosses not only locations and highways but also mental states (the romantic “Heart to Love”), emotional growth (“Why Can’t I Change?” and “Runaway)” and chill Americana vibes (“Eagle Bear Buffalo” and “To Be Free.”) *** 

Madeleine Peyroux – Anthem – Verve
Peyroux is often plopped into the jazz category — that’s where her roots lie — but she’s tough to define; she infuses her music with everything from pop to funk and folk. Collaborating with fellow songwriters Patrick Warren and David Baerwald, whose own resumes span an unlikely mix of genres, this set is a mix of introspective thoughts and external observations that, in songs like “The Brand New Deal,” “Party Tyme,” and “Might As Well Dance.,” touches on decidedly un-jazzy topics like politics. ** ½

Iron and Wine – Weed Garden – Sub Pop
Spawned from the leftovers of Iron and Wine’s full-length Beast Epic album, this collection was put together by main songwriter Sam Beam as a bonus set for fans. The most notable inclusion is live favorite “Waves of Galveston.” The set opens with “What Hurts Worse,” the decision between keeping or jettisoning a relationship, and much of the short album seems to revolve around choices and growth, including another highlight, “Autumn Town Leaves.” ** ½


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