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I have been a Jayhwaks fan for years and was very disappointed when they called it quits. It was always oddly comforting to know that they were out there in the world quietly creating classic albums that stood the test of time. I liked the Louris-helmed material just as much as the Olson-Louris albums and thought that they were heading in a good direction when they released Rainy Day Music.
However now that I hear this album, perhaps the Jayhawks breakup wasn't such a bad thing. This continues pretty much where the band left off, returning to the rootsy sound that made them unique but with an added sense of smart-poppiness a la Golden Smog (Louris's "other band" in which he seemed to have been playing a larger role than before). So far my favorites are "Omaha Nights" (with a gospel-style chorus) and the ramshackle 70s-styled "She Only Calls Me On Sundays." But the thing is this album will grow on me over repeated listens, and other tracks will start to stand out as well and gain meaning as they form the backdrop to my life. This is something that has always been true of The Jayhawks' music too - their albums are meant to be digested over long periods of time and their facets reveal themselves over many listens. That above all else is the mark of a great musician - the ability to craft songs that stay with you. Gary Louris is that kind of musician and this album is a hands-down immediate classic on a par with The Jayhawks and Golden Smog albums that I love so much.
This version of the title track alone is worth the price of this disc. Hearing the songs performed with stripped-down acoustic instrumentation still reveals how strong this work is. If you're a Jayhawks/Gary/Golden Smog fan, this is a worthy addition to your collection.
This record has a timely quality to it like it could have been made back in the 70's feeling to it. If you love early Eagles, Jackson Browne, the Byrds, the Burrito Bros., this will fit right in.
Actually, this brings to mind the producer of this particular CD, Chris Robinson. (Check out both of his fantastic solo discs: they bring with them the best of the Black Crowes--their organic rootsiness, poetic luster, as well as grit and arrogance--all staples of his full time gig.)
As for Gary Louris' first solo outing, it's diffiult to mourn the now defunct Jayhawks--despite the stellar nature of their latest disc, Rainy Day Music. Vagabonds is the best of the Jayhawks: it's a pure, stripped down affair that's all about the songs. And Louris brings with him ten new beauties. Check out the gorgeous acoustic poetics of "True Blue" or the forlorn country laze of "She Only Calls Me On Sundays." "Omaha Nights", perhaps the rowdiest tune on the disc, is nevertheless steeped in some of Louris' most profound lyrics: "Am I growing old in the arms of the wrong lover."
A detour into trippier territory with songs like "I Wanna Get High" and "Black Grass" are welcomed deviations. A track by track listing is not necessary. Everything about this music works: it's warm, inviting, and without a trace of pretense. On the one hand, the tunes suggest the somber melancholy of a jilted, contemplative lover, while on the other they proudly reveal the heart of a man who knows where he's been and where he's going. Louris, hopefully--and possibly with Robinson at his side once again--will continue to light out for similar ground, following the shadow of his muse.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love the Gary Louris version of the Jayhawks after Mark Olsen left (the first time) and those are some of my favorite albums by the band. What a great voice. Read morePublished on December 23, 2012 by Donald E. Gilliland
I wrote a brief review of this album shortly after receiving it, and I gave it four stars. I had to come back, add a star, and completely revise. Read morePublished on February 6, 2011 by maelje
These songs are acoustic versions of some tracks from the lp Vagabonds. The stripped downed sound makes for a great listen to these 6 tracks. Read morePublished on April 8, 2010 by train
This accoustic version is for the ages. It reveals the songs in a stripped-down format so you notice what an accomplished songwriter Gary Louris is. Read morePublished on January 10, 2009 by freereign
Just saw the man last night for the local public radio station WUWM benefit...True Blue, Vagabonds, To Die A Happy Man, and DC Blues were powerful statements of originality and... Read morePublished on October 25, 2008 by P. J. Burke
One of the most thoughtful albums I've ever heard. Gary really lets out all of his thoughts on a wide range of subjects. Read morePublished on October 14, 2008 by R. Griffis
I thought the album was excellent, although I am used to more up-tempo songs that Gary does with the Jayhawks. It is growing on me the more I listen to it. Read morePublished on October 3, 2008 by Richard P. Thorne