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February 21, 2008

Gary Louris, 'Vagabonds'



A solo album is rarely a solo effort, and on "Vagabonds," Jayhawks co-founder Gary Louris chose his help wisely.

Louris assembled a group of backup singers playfully dubbed the Laurel Canyon Family Choir, and it includes Jenny Lewis, the Bangles' Susanna Hoffs and Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson, who also produced. The choir offers soaring support on ballads and uptempo tunes alike, giving "Vagabonds" a distinctive stamp. The arrangements also provide plenty of room for standout pedal steel player Josh Grange, part of a crack team of Los Angeles musicians backing Louris.

Another unifying thread is Louris' lyrics, with a recurring theme of midlife yearning and lessons learned. "The more we polish up our silver, the less it seems to shine," he sings on the beautiful closing tune "Meandering." There's a spiritual undercurrent that spills over on "To Die A Happy Man," where the choir transforms a ballad into a handclap-driven gospel romp.

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Memorable melodies abound, and in the end, Louris' first solo disc sounds a lot like a Jayhawks record. It's that good.

Check this out: Robinson's influence is most evident on the appealing retro rocker "I Wanna Get High," which has a druggy vibe to match the title.

- By The Associated Press




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