Vagabonds is Gary Louris' solodebut. After spending almost twenty years as the leader or co-leader of alt.country band the Jayhawks Louris finally embarks on a solo journey. And what a journey it is. The album is produced by Chris Robinson and is drenched in the late sixties/early seventies sound that came out of the L.A. canyons.
No suprise that it sounds the way it does really. The Jayhawks always had that sound in them, and if you've heard the solo releases of producer Robinson you know of his love affair with the whole Laurel Canyon-scene. Louris and Robinson rounded up a band of likeminded younger players and started recording this album at L.A. studio Sage & Sound just after Louris had finished a session with old bandmate Mark Olson in the same studio.
The album kicks off with the song "True Blue" which has the typical Louris vocal harmonies in the chorus. You simply can't resist melodies like that. A song that truly gets you hooked - and that sounds better and better for each listen. Vagabonds is like that, it sneeks underneath your skin and it just stays there. Growing on you, getting better and better. If you need something to compare it with then bring out your CSN and acoustic Grateful Dead albums, maybe even some Eagles and America. Not to forget Jackson Browne. It has that early seventies yet timeless sound. The fantastic gospelchoir on songs like "To Die a Happy Man" and "She Only Calls Me On Sundays" courtesy of the Laurel Canyon Family Choir. Behind that lovely name people like Chris Robinson, Susanna Hoffs, Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice hides. And they shine like the sun through the eucalyptus trees up in the canyon.
She only calls me on Sundays
When she's had her fill
Of red wine and cigarettes
And prescription pills..."
"..All the years I've wasted
All the glories worn
All the failures tasted
Couldn't bring you home"
Vagabonds is full of lyrics like that. Lyrics that stay in touch with the music and the feeling the music gives you. The next song "We'll Get By" reminds me of Crosby, Stills & Nash both lyrically and espescially in the soothing harmonies towards the end of the tune.
Other highlights for me are "I Wanna Get High" and the title cut "Vagabonds". There is only one thing I wished was different with this album, I would have placed the song "Vagabonds" at the end of the album, because the way it is now both "DC Blues" and especially "Meandering" seem a little like an anticlimax after it. But, what do I know, and believe me - I'm not complaining. Vagabonds is the best album of 2008 so far.