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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After my piece arguing that Mariano Rivera is the best relief pitcher in baseball, he blew his very next save opportunity. C’est la vie

So what’s happening with me?

I’m heading to New York to catch the end of the regular season in the Bronx.

Negotiations for two albums of new Sad Cafe material are on-going and dragging……… Waiting to see if it all works out.

October will see a visit to Elland Road and two John Foxx performances.

Considering writing an essay on the first books authored by Malcolm Muggeridge. These have been out of print since before the Second World War so I’m guessing this might be difficult to place but, hey…., when did that ever stop me.

Recommended Listening?

Son Volt – American Central Dust
Radio Silence – Whose Skin are You under Now
Sad Cafe – Ole (particularly like the remastering job on this one, you should use that guy on your back catalogue)
John Foxx – The Quiet Man (Spoken Word)
A Camp – Colonia

New Albums on the Horizon (and an old title just to spice the pot)

Two of the artists I respect most have new albums coming in the next few weeks.

First up is Bob Dylan whose new album is due on cd and vinyl on the 28th of April. I think the artwork is dreadful but I’m sure the musical content will be better. It’s called "Together Through Life"

Next is John Foxx who, as I’ve mentioned before, has been working with Robin Guthrie. Their album will also be on cd and vinyl and will appear the first week in May. It’s called "Mirrorball".

On a more personal note, I’ve been working on remastering the sound on three albums for a band from the 70s and 80s called Sad Cafe. I now have a provisional release date for the first of these. The album also called Sad Cafe will be on Renaissance Records in the States on the 21st of April.

I mentioned John Foxx. Another album he has been busy on dropped through my letterbox this morning. This time he’s worked with Steve D’Agostino and Steve Jansen (ex-Japan). I’ve not shown the artwork for this one before so here goes:

Mr Foxx is frighteningly prolific.

What other discs would I recommend at the moment?

Walter Becker – Circus Money (not just because I was involved in the release of this one)
Alice Cooper – Along Came A Spider (oh, another one I was involved in)
Mostly Autumn – Glass Shadows
Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs
Revue Noir (Debut EP – featuring Sam Rosenthal from black tape for a blue girl)
Sam Yahel Trio – In the Blink of An Eye
Rubicks – In Miniature
Frankie Valli – Romancing the Sixties (one for the nostalgists – but very good!)
Marie-Juliette Beer – The Garden
Barclay James Harvest – Revolution Days (just happens to feature Ian Wilson and Mike Byron-Hehir from Sad Cafe, did I mention I’ve been remastering for them)
Bob James – Urban Flamingo
Saviour Machine – Legend 1
Son Volt – On Chant and Strum
Danilo Perez – Panama Suite
Richie Furay Band – Alive (Catch my interview with him on Cross Rhythms on the web and in Natural Progressions Magazine in the world of print)

Enough for now………….


‘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”.