The Jayhawks - Tomorrow The Green Grass LP
Released in 1992, Hollywood Town Hall wasn't a hit, but it received enough rave reviews to considerably raise the Jayhawks' profile, and it certainly heightened expectations for their next album. On 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass, the Jayhawks found themselves in the tricky situation of trying to match the quality of Hollywood Town Hall without simply repeating themselves, and they came remarkably close to achieving that daunting task. Rather than simply mimic the warm and unaffected sound of Hollywood Town Hall, the Jayhawks reached for a broader and more eclectic approach on Tomorrow the Green Grass; with the presence of new keyboard player Karen Grotberg and the addition of strings on several tracks, the album certainly sounded fuller and more artful, but Mark Olson and Gary Louris' harmonies were still the band's secret weapon, and were as pure and emotionally compelling as ever, while Louris' electric guitar solos gave the songs real rock & roll muscle without disturbing the essentially gentle nature of their music. And the best songs on Tomorrow the Green Grass are every bit as good as anything on Hollywood Town Hall, especially the opening hat trick of "Blue," "I'll Run Away," and "Miss Williams' Guitar" (the latter a joyous love letter to Olson's new bride, Victoria Williams). But while nearly every song on Hollywood Town Hall seemed like a classic in context, the greater stylistic variety of Tomorrow the Green Grass had the consequence of making a few of the songs in the second half of the album seem less than essential, most notably "Ann Jane" and "Pray for Me," though they hardly counted as disappointments, and the album rallies to a rousing finale with "Ten Little Kids." If Hollywood Town Hall is inarguably the Jayhawks' best album, Tomorrow the Green Grass runs a very close second, and though it was to be the group's last album with Mark Olson, the eclectic approach pointed the way to the sound and style of the fine records the Louris-led version of the band would go on to make.