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Gary Louris: Vagabonds

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Here's the obvious first question about a solo artist's first release after the breakup of a well-known band: How much, if at all, will it sound like the old band? With Vagabonds, former Jayhawks leader Gary Louris takes a few careful steps away from the sounds of the alt-country pioneers—just enough to shine a new light without moving too far from what he's proven to excel at. Eager to capture the spirit of the 1970s singer-songwriter scene, Louris recorded Vagabonds in Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon area—where musicians like Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills & Nash hung out back in the day—gathering a group of backing musicians including The Bangles' Susanna Hoffs and Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis. Producer Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes helps Louris steer the album toward classic rock, but except for the soaring harmonies that were a Jayhawks staple, Vagabonds is marked by the hallmarks of Louris' style: beautiful melodies, both winsome and sad. It's probably too introspective to make much of a splash outside his established fan base, but it certainly shouldn't lose him any fans either.