The Jayhawks' star was rising when, following the critically acclaimed Hollywood Town Hall, they returned to the studio to cut Tomorrow the Green Grass in 1994. Their hallmark country flavor occasionally surfaces, but overall a lush, poppier production approach wraps Beatles-esque songcraft in a velvet cloak. As it turned out, Green Grass would be the final recording by the original lineup of Minnesotans; vocalist/guitarist Mark Olson departed soon after its release.
Throughout Green Grass, the songs veer from rootsy to majestic. Kickoff track and lead single, the stunning "Blue," sets the tone, building from a stark acoustic opening to a mini-symphony, with string arrangements by Paul Buckmaster (Elton John) underpinning Olson and Louris's rich vocal harmonies.
Augmenting the sound is Karen Grotberg, whose singing and keys add texture on lustrous tracks like "Nothing Left to Borrow" and "I'd Run Away," which also feature Lili Haydn's viola and violin. Another standout, "Miss Williams Guitar," is a charming ode to Olson's future wife, singer-songwriter Victoria Williams. The band also gives a nod to its bar-band beginnings, with a rollicking cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "Bad Time." The rocking "Ten Little Kids," with a multi-voice chorus that features Williams, ends the album with a communal vibe, punctuated by Louris' metallic guitar attack, which serves as a counterpoint to guest Greg Leisz's pedal steel.
Additional songs abound on the 2011 edition, beginning with five omitted from the original release, including erstwhile title track, the lilting "Tomorrow the Green Grass," which could have been a British Invasion-era hit. Eighteen acoustic numbers, known as the "Mystery Demos," cut by Olson and Louris in 1992 (with violinist/mandolinist Mike "Razz" Russell) and with producer George Drakoulias in 1994, are also here. Highly coveted by bootleg collectors, such stirring numbers as "Poor Michael's Boat," "Ranch House In Phoenix," and "Up Above the River" see their first official release; others ("Blue From Now On," "Red's Song") beautifully document the evolution of a song.