Early Years, Vol. 1 bundles the initial portion of Jump, Little Children's career, namely 1995's Licorice Tea Demos and the 1997 live EP Buzz. It also includes three bonus tracks for good measure. The set will be a boon to fans, since both releases were previously out of print. But it might also be a better representation of the band's comfort level than its louder major-label effort from 1998. There's still a considerable emphasis on chorus melody and Jay Clifford's voice and lyrics. But the overall sound is a rustic, rousing approach to pop, closer to the group's formative street busker years and recalling its origins in Irish folk music and country blues. Highlights of the first disc include the gentle "Matchbox Whistler," where fiddle and harmonica tickle the swaying melody; the jammy, Poi Dog-ish "Dancing Virginia"; and the raucous, stomping closer, "Opium," which includes some funny studio chatter in which Jump riffs on the titles of walking songs. Like its peers in Dispatch, O.A.R., and even Barenaked Ladies, Jump, Little Children has always been known for its live shows. To that end, Early Years' live disc should certainly remind longtime fans of how much fun they've had at the band's shows. However, it might not be as accessible for new listeners, since -- like so many live albums -- the intangible energy of the actual experience doesn't carry really through on the soundboard recording. Still, "Underground Elite"'s harp peels and great chorus break work well, and "Opium" again closes things in ragged, boogying fashion. The bonus material is altogether strong, but "15 Stories" might be its best moment. Led by violin and an insistent mandolin and full of poignancy, the track gathers lyric, melody, and virtuosic acoustic instrumentation together to present the best of what Jump, Little Children has to offer.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2