Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Within the liner notes of "Ready For The Flood," the first recording of new material made by Jayhawks co-founders Mark Olson and Gary Louris is a moment when the two songwriters step out and preface a passage in the closing song, "The Trap's Been Set." It's the song that lends the album its title and there are a couple spoken segments in the song that the two men felt needed to be explained. Really, it's just one quick line. It falls after the two have harmonized about being old and angry, but feeling that the collected pain from everything previous, all the entrails and the sloppy collisions, the bumps and the blindings, has slowly lifted from them. It's all happened, though, in preparation for another groundswell of some of the same - some of the fodder that comes with falling in love again. The line that Olson and Louris pick out and give us extra context for is this, "'Cause I saw you first in the cattails/And then hate and fear/I never knew what hit me." This is the line that still appears in the song, but an omitted variation of it, featuring different word choices, is, "I saw her first in the cattails," and - to these men - has a different connotation altogether. It's one of a greater fondness for the past, for a moment and a time that can never be replicated and can likely never be experienced in the same way, with the same person. They describe it in their notes this way, "…the actual meaning of which is a certainty at certain hours of the day or night in the minds of the performers and studio personnel. What this phrase recalls is the sweet scent and mystery of one's first kiss, be it sweet or not - it is the first, and we all spent many happy hours pondering ours and the nature of it all while cloistered together recording these songs." The extra explanation is a lovely clarification, or at least a glimpse at a more finite, less ambiguous clarification, that recalls some real honey-ed days and long gone flirtations of youthful expression and new love, the kinds that the Jayhawks were always so great at capturing, the kinds that Louris and Olson still show that they're great at capturing. It's with these words that we're allowed to hear the songs on "Ready For The Flood" the way that they may have been intended - as torn our pages from the typed pages of the memoirs of a man with no intentions of them ever being seen or published, just the reminders to himself and family after he's passed on that there did live a guy who experienced the most humble and complex emotions that any human being could ever experience. His grandchildren may be interested to know that grandpa wasn't always just a slow-moving guy who dotes on pretty young girls in charming ways, thinks at half the pace, needs a cane to get around, has gray hair everywhere there's still hair and has trouble remembering all of his years. They may like know that within him still beats the heart that loved once - maybe many times - for the first time, that felt the same urges and pulls toward the different angles and sides of the spectrum. "Ready For The Flood" is laden with points of contemplation and longing, aching for former brilliance and seeing the lights in the same ways that they used to shine. It's laden with the briefest of mentions of the disgust, or at least, discomfort in the aging process that is changing everything for them. It's an upheaval and all of the memories, all of the relationships that used to be built on something, anything else are being affected. The first kisses are seen from afar and felt from even greater distances. The times are racing by and the mind is just flailing thinking that all of it is theirs, all of it is personal.
Mark Olson & Gary Louris MySpace Page