With the departure of Mark Olson, Gary Louris becomes the principal songwriter for Sound of Lies with an occasional co-write with bassist Marc Perlman. New drummer Tim O'Reagan also contributes "Bottomless Cup".
In his review for Allmusic, critic Thom Owen praised the album and wrote " The lyrics have a naked, emotional honesty which would have been more affecting if the music echoed its sentiment, yet the record still has a subtle grace and power, proving that the Jayhawks remain a distinctive band without Olson." Music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a 'bomb' rating while David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album an B- rating and contrasted the Jayhawks with Uncle Tupelo. He wrote the album "is caught between two worlds — it's a little bit wimpy country, a little bit wimpy rock & roll — and ends up lacking the power of either."