The Jayhawks

Hollywood Town Hall

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AllMusic Review by

It was one of the more unlikely major label releases of 1992 -- nothing to do with grunge, certainly not a last holdout from '80s mainstream sludge. On the flip side, it wasn't really the incipient alternative country/No Depression sound either, for all that there was a clear influence from the likes of Gram Parsons and fellow travelers throughout the grooves. This wasn't a sepia-toned collection of murder ballads or the similarly minded efforts that were almost overreactions to Nashville's triumphalism throughout the '90s. At base, Hollywood Town Hall found a finely balanced point -- accessible enough for should-have-been success (sclerotic classic rock station programmers were fools to ignore this while still playing the Eagles into the ground) but bowing to no trends. Its lack of variety tells against a bit -- while there are certainly stronger moments than others, most of the songs do have a tendency to blend into each other -- but the core strengths of the group come through. George Drakoulias fleshed out the sound just enough, with the side help of performers like Benmont Tench and Nicky Hopkins adding fine extra touches without swamping the identity of the group. Piano and organ may be prevalent, but it's really Olson and Louris' great harmonies that are the core of things, giving songs like "Crowded in the Wings" and "Settled Down Like Rain" a high-and-lonesome sparkle. Callahan's a good drummer, if not particularly noteworthy, but he keeps the pace steady without dominating the tracks, Drakoulias keeping him back in the mix a bit. Olson's eventual departure isn't really explained by this disc -- he might have been tired of the attempt to aim for commercial success, but this sounds more like something made for the group's own satisfaction that connects beyond it as well.

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