Tomorrow the Green Grass
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2011, Volume 18, #3
Written by John Metzger
Thu March 31, 2011, 06:30 AM CDT
The Jayhawks had high hopes for its fourth endeavor Tomorrow the Green Grass. Not surprisingly, then, the lack of attention that the set received was enough to disrupt the outfit. Sure enough, before The Jayhawks could regroup to begin work on its next endeavor, Mark Olson disembarked from the journey in order to pursue a solo career. Co-founder Gary Louris admirably kept the rest of the band intact, pushing forward with the power-pop assault of Sound of Lies before inevitably circling back to The Jayhawks’ roots-oriented beginnings on Rainy Day Music. Nevertheless, for many fans, Olson’s departure marked the end of an era.
There is no doubt that the dismissal of The Jayhawks’ efforts by the general public was unjust. Nevertheless, this had more to do with the consolidation, collapse, and homogenization of the music industry than it did with the quality of the group’s output. Even in hindsight, the music on Tomorrow the Green Grass holds up quite well, and it continues to be a worthy successor to Hollywood Town Hall.
By the time that they began to piece together Tomorrow the Green Grass, Olson and Louris already had an abundance of material at their disposal. Yet, like every assemblage of up-and-coming artists, they weren’t interested in remaining in one place. Rather, they were itching to diversify The Jayhawks’ sound. Over the course of Tomorrow the Green Grass’ 13 tracks, the duo surrounded their infectious melodies and pristine harmonies with a broader representation of their influences.
Although the Byrds-meets-Big Star concepts of Hollywood Town Hall still dominated the music on Tomorrow the Green Grass, The Jayhawks also embraced its pop-leaning tendencies. Paul Buckmaster, who had orchestrated a large portion of Elton John’s canon, brought a sense of import to Blue, while the galloping, country-rock of Miss Williams’ Guitar was given a ragged, Neil Young-ian charge. Bad Time, a tune by Grand Funk Railroad, not only served as the centerpiece of the set, but it also was twisted into a joyously shimmering blast of Fleetwood Mac-imbued sunshine.
The Jayhawks’ instincts certainly weren’t wrong. The group needed to widen its purview in order to broaden its appeal. The problem, however, is that as good as Tomorrow the Green Grass was, it felt like an effort that was both inferior to and less cohesive than Hollywood Town Hall. Consequently, it also wasn’t nearly as durable. For starters, the collection is somewhat bloated. Instead of leaving fans wanting more, The Jayhawks gave them everything it had. The other factor that detracts from the set is that the songs themselves frequently feel overly rehearsed. Where the piece-by-piece assemblage of Hollywood Town Hall miraculously produced a vibrant, live-sounding affair, the same process proved to be a weight that siphoned some of the energy away from Tomorrow the Green Grass.
Padded with an extra disc of material, Tomorrow the Green Grass: Legacy Edition offers a glimpse at an alternative direction that The Jayhawks could have taken with its career. Nineteen of the 24 bonus tracks that appear on the set — including a hidden version of Blue — are acoustic demos, most of which were culled from a pair of sessions held in 1992. Not surprisingly, a majority of the selections lack the level of energy that the band brought to the final versions of its songs. After all, because a lot of the material preceded Hollywood Town Hall, The Jayhawks hadn’t yet found its swagger. Nevertheless, Tomorrow the Green Grass: Legacy Edition unearths some genuine highlights, such as the moody atmospherics of Ranch House in Phoenix, the campfire intimacy of Pray for Me, the sad longing of Turn Your Pretty Name Around, and a rousing B-side cover of Last Cigarette.
The Jayhawks often took issue with the notion of being lumped into the alt-country movement. Based upon Hollywood Town Hall, Tomorrow the Green Grass, and almost everything else that followed, this is a justifiable position for the band to have taken. More often than not, its output drew from a broad range of styles. Even so, given the lo-fi ambience of the bonus material featured on Tomorrow the Green Grass: Legacy Edition, there also is a case to be made that The Jayhawks fit quite neatly within the alt-country scene. In fact, The Jayhawks deserves just as much credit as Uncle Tupelo and its offshoots not only for building the genre’s mold but also for smashing it to pieces.
Of Further Interest...
Tomorrow the Green Grass: Legacy Edition is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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