The Jayhawks came up in the nineties, too early for the early twenty-first century alt-country boom, but have managed to parlay themselves into reliability, whether with their own material or backing the likes of Ray Davies. XOXO sees the group expand their sound, including different songwriters, for a large and appealing record.
Opener “This Forgotten Town” might initially seem like sort of definitional alt-country, but it has the twang to back it up. The smiling sarcasm of “Living In a Bubble” is almost Randy Newman-esque, while the light critique of “Society Pages” brings to mind Beatles-era McCartney. There are a number of pieces that have sweet carry, maybe a few too many to let them stand out, but also a kick-starter in “Dogtown Days” and classic country storytelling with “Bitter Pill”.
With three bonus tracks making fifteen in total, XOXO might be a bit overstuffed for these short attention span days, but that’s hardly the worst thing in the world. So, relax and listen to some great alt-country from any age.