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No more troubled times: The Jayhawks head back to the stage

Live Review

Venue: London Islington Assembly Hall

After a tumultuous 31-year career of inter-band fall outs, the reunited country rockers strut their stuff at a London double-header

Ray Davies is leaning on an old alley’s sooty brick wall, talking with his new friends The Jayhawks after their two-night London stand. Spying CR, he looks startled: his sessions with the American band at nearby Konk Studios were meant to be as secret as the Manhattan Project, but the cat has just leapt out of the bag.

Davies, mainman of The Kinks, is a fragile presence at 72, a childhood spinal injury perhaps contributing to his slightly bent back. His voice is husky and quiet, but retains his lifelong air of faint amusement. “Ray! Not saying goodbye?” Jayhawks leader Gary Louris chides as Davies tries to slip away into the London night. He ghosts up to shake hands delicately, then quickly disappears.

Although The Jayhawks are often credited with helping to kick‑start the Americana revival – a style wholly out of fashion when they formed in Minneapolis in 1985 – their country-rocking roots came mostly from their former co-leader, Marc Olson. Latest album Paging Mr. Proust, co-produced by peer and fan Peter Buck, instead leafs through Louris’s 60s rock influences. Its strong melodies, wistful harmonies and bittersweet nostalgia aren’t unlike The Kinks, making them inspired stand-ins to record with Davies. The fractious end of Olson’s second spell with the band in 2012 (more of which later) might also raise knowing smiles from Ray and Dave.

“I like Ray a lot,” Louris reflects when he’s gone. “He’s one of my heroes, and still is [after knowing him]. So it’s pretty cool when I look over and see him in the studio. I was a huge Kinks fan, from the early days in the 60s, and I saw them a lot in the 70s, when they came through Minnesota. I even had my Lola Versus Powerman record signed by them. Little did I know…”

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“When we were working at Konk, we’d always get out of there 20 minutes before the Hope And Anchor closed,” recalls bassist Marc Perlman, the other original Jayhawk, “but they would be expecting us, so they’d stay open later. And then Ray would show up, and then it’s open till whenever, really. Everybody in Konk pretends they’re not impressed with Ray. ‘Oh, he’s just the old geezer who owns the studio…’”

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