Produced by Gary Louris, John Jackson and Ed Ackerson at Flowers Studio in Minneapolis, MN, The Jayhawks' tenth studio album Back Roads and Abandoned Motels sets nine songs co-written by Louris with other artists alongside two of his latest compositions. Recorded in two vibrant sessions in 2017, it finds the current incarnation of group - Louris (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars), Marc Perlman (bass), Tim O'Reagan (vocals, drums, percussion), Karen Grotberg (vocals, piano, keyboards), John Jackson (mandolin, violin, acoustic guitar) - going for a lean, simple approach, at times reminiscent of the fabled Rainy Day Music era. The Jayhawks have long been blessed with an abundance of superb vocal talent and on the new album Karen and Tim each sing lead on two songs. Tim performs "Gonna Be a Darkness" and "Long Time Ago" while Karen takes lead vocals (for the first time) on the opener, "Come Cryin' to Me (which also features a soulful horn section arranged by David Ralicke) and on "El Dorado."
Back Roads and Abandoned Motels expands the group's repertoire with brand-new recordings of songs that frontman Gary Louris has co-written with other acts: "Come Cryin' to Me" (originally released on Natalie Maines' Mother in 2013); "Everybody Knows" and "Bitter End" (released on Dixie Chicks' Taking The Long Way in 2006); "Gonna Be a Darkness" (written and performed by Louris and Jakob Dylan for True Blood: Music From The HBO Original Series - Volume 3 in 2011); "Need You Tonight" (originally released on Scott Thomas' Matson Tweed in 2015); "El Dorado" (originally released on Carrie Rodriguez' She Ain't Me in 2008); "Bird Never Flies" (originally released on Ari Hest's The Break-In in 2007); "Backwards Women" (written with Wild Feathers but never recorded) and "Long Time Ago" (written with Emerson Hart of Tonic but never recorded).
Back Roads and Abandoned Motels also marks the debut of two of Gary's latest songs, "Carry You To Safety" and "Leaving Detroit."