As founding members of the Jayhawks, Mark Olson and Gary Louris were among the artists most instrumental in defining the alt-country movement. With the band’s current roster on indefinite hiatus, Louris has reunited with Olson on Ready for the Flood, an album that finds the two long-time collaborators more or less picking up where they left off. While the Jayhawks had moved in a more pop-leaning direction since Olson’s departure in 1995, Flood recalls the band’s earlier, roots-oriented work, which serves the individual talents of both men quite well. The underplayed, largely acoustic production on cuts like “Turn Your Pretty Name Around” and “Kick the Wood” places the emphasis on the clever turns of phrase that characterize the narratives. The best of these, “Bloody Hands,” plays like an unexpected sequel to the well-known murder ballad “Knoxville Girl,” with Olson and Louris’s terrific vocal harmonies recalling the Louvin Brothers’s signature rendition of that song. Their harmonies are also a key selling point on the Beatles-esque rock number “Chamberlain, SD” and the pensive “The Trap’s Been Set.” If there’s nothing particularly innovative about Flood, it’s nonetheless gratifying to hear Olson and Louris writing and performing together again, and hopefully the album is but a starting point for future projects.
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