What’s coming up in 2014?

Thank you to everyone who visits and supports this site. We now get more visitors per day than ever before. We get twice as many visitors per day just reading old stuff as we used to get on the old site on a day when a new article went up.

So a couple of weeks into the New Year, what seems to be likely to appear here in 2014 and what else will I be involved in?

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‘Til We Gather

Jay Farrar had been in Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt. In 2001, he launched out on a solo career which effectively lasted from 2001-2004. I think the experience taught him one thing – people were more interested in records with the name Son Volt on the cover than those bearing the name Jay Farrar. Shortly after that he wrested control of the name “Son Volt” and it became a canny cover for his continuing solo recordings albeit ones with a slightly more electric feel than the ones he recorded in the four years that he left the band name to one side.

If you like Son Volt, you really shouldn’t neglect his solo albums. If you like albums in the singer / songwriter or Americana traditions, you really shouldn’t miss those albums either. A good place to start might be the live album “Live in Seattle” which was recorded in 2003 and captures many of the best songs from his solo tenure with Farrar on guitar and harmonica sparsely accompanied by Mark Spencer (from Blood Oranges) alternating on guitar and bass and Eric Heywood on pedal steel.

This live set has 15 tracks. All but one – the encore “White Freightliner Blues” which is a Townes Van Zandt cover – are culled from the four studio discs that made up Farrar’s solo tenure to date.

The 2001 album was Sebastopol. From that we have “Make it Alright”, “Feel Free”, “Barstow”, “Damn Shame”, “Vitamins”, “Feed Kill Chain” and “Voodoo Candle”.

The 2002 album was a film soundtrack, The Slaughter Rule. A song called “Gather” is included on the live album.

The 2002 EP, ThirdShiftGrottoSlack, had a different version of “Damn Shame”

The 2003 album, “Terroir Blues” is also handsomely represented. “California”, “Heart on the Ground”, “No Rolling Back”, “All of Your Might”, “Cahokian” and “Fool King’s Crown” can all be found on the Seattle live album.

If you didn’t pick up on them initially then why not start with the live disc which is available from jayfarrar.net and then if you find its as strong as I think you will, you could collect them all.

Searching for a deep album?

An album I would heartily recommend to everyone is the 2007 release by Son Volt entitled “The Search”.

If you’re unfamiliar with the band, here is a little potted history.

The leader of the band is Jay Farrar. He was previously in Uncle Tupelo with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Uncle Tupelo were the inspiration for the whole alt-country / Americana movement and its Bible “No Depression” took its title from their material. When that band went their separate ways, Farrar formed Son Volt who debuted in 1995 with arguably their finest album, “Trace”. The sophomore release “straightaways” followed in 1997 and then there was “Wide Swing Tremolo” in ’98. By this time significant tensions had arisen amongst the four members and there seemed to be no more Son Volt material on the horizon. Farrar began to record and tour as a solo act. He released “Sebastopol” and “Terroir Blues” accompanied by an e.p. called “ThirdShiftGrottSlack” and a clutch of live albums.

The band reformed in 2004 to record a track for a benefit album “Por Vida” which was to raise funds for songwriter Alejandro Escovedo who had become seriously ill. The song was completed and released but on the verge of a new Son Volt album, Farrar sacked the remaining members of the band, reclaimed the name and formed a new Son Volt.

Not the most invigorating or promising turn of events then but the new band released 2005’s “Okemah and the Melody of Riot” and then the aforementioned “The Search” in 2007.

So what about this slightly ugly story would inspire someone to buy “The Search”. Well, Farrar is the consummate singer / songwriter and Son Volt gives him an electric arena to display the full range of emotions captured in his songs. The plus factor is that “The Search” is an astonishingly deep album as my title alluded. If you stray into your local cd emporium you’ll buy a 14 track cd with that title. A glance on ebay will show that the early copies of that cd came with two alternate E.P.s of the same title. If you go to iTunes you will find a further 8 tracks are available on the “deluxe edition”. The 22 tracks of the deluxe edition can also be found on vinyl on Sonvolt.com in a set entitled “On Chant and Strum”.

Most great songwriters write prolifically for a few years and then run out of that first storm of ideas and the songs become fewer and farther between. This doesn’t seem to have happened with Farrar. Of the 28 recordings that I’ve mentioned, that are associated with “The Search” project, nothing here sounds like filler. In fact the sweetness and beauty of some of the extras – “Coltrane Free”, “Acetone Angels”, “Bicycle Hotel” – have to be heard to be believed.

Do yourself a favour, buy “The Search”.