Stalwarts of the Americana scene, The Jayhawks have gone through a lot of changes over the years, both stylistically and in terms of line-up, but one thing that can usually be relied upon is their ability to release a great album. From their early records full of country influences, to the more commercial ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ from 1992, to the power pop infused ‘Sound of Lies’ and Byrds-ish ‘Rainy Day Music’, each record often borders upon essential listening. Even 2011’s slightly more downbeat ‘Mockingbird Time’ – marking the very brief return of founder member Mark Olson after a sixteen year absence – represented a band somewhere near the top of their game.
In 2015, Philadelphia’s Travel Lanes released ‘Let’s Begin To Start Again’, a hit and miss album that mixed a few pop and power pop influences with several rootsier John Mellencamp, John Hiatt and Connells styled moods. A few wobbly vocals let the side down from time to time, but there were a few decent tracks to be found within. Five years down the road, their third album only offers eight tracks in a very succinct twenty nine minutes, but its concise approach very much suits the band. Compared to previous Travel Lanes works, ‘On’ is far more consistent in terms of quality.
This Minneapolis based garage rock band is entirely unpretentious. At no point do these musicians stretch too far beyond their garage-ish musical limits – limits that are occasionally just a little too obvious – nor do they display any kind of ego. By their own admission, J. Eastman & The Drunk Uncles are rather shambolic. Still, a fairly loose and carefree attitude has got them so far and this third release works very much on a maxim of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Or in the case of the Uncles, it might even be “if it sounds a bit broke, let’s swill some booze and knock things about until they sound better.”
True to their word, bits of ‘No Capo Required’ do indeed sound sloppy. That said, you’ll have heard sloppier…and sometimes from bands who actually genuinely believe they’re the very acme of musical perfection.