Jay Farrar

Jay Farrar founding member of Uncle Tupelo, splinter group Son Volt and now solo performer finally arrived on our shores to play the Corner Hotel. It was a much-anticipated performance by aficionados of what is loosely described as the alt country scene.

A packed bill of acts on the night saw an entertaining opening by Henry Wagons. He amused the crowd with his wry humour, guitar play and original songs. With his booming baritone voice and western tinged narratives he sounded at times like a weird hybrid of Marty Robbins, Kris Kristofferson and Jonathon Richman he pleased old fans and gained some new ones on the night. His excitement about the upcoming headline act was palpable to the small crowd of early arrivers.

A larger, crowd who started to jostle for position closer to the stage, greeted The Rectifiers who showcased their impending new CD release. The band is now largely comprised of keyboards and guitar, which is a departure from the earlier steel guitar sound of the band.

After a short break Farrar appeared on stage without introduction and proceeded to perform a solo song 'Doesn't Have to Be This Way' at the end of which he was joined on stage by his accompanist for the night Mark Spencer.

The set comprised mostly of songs his two solo albums Sebastopol and Terrior Blues and included on the new live solo credited album Stone, Steel & Bright Lights, in a stripped down format due to the absence of a backing band. Songs such as "Greenwich Time", "No Rolling Back", "Vitamins" and "Feel Free" highlight the depth of his writing and suggest an artist, already with a significant body of work who is reaching the peak of his talents in expressing current societal ennui in the abstract lyrical content.

The audience was given a glimpse of the troubadour minstrel within Farrar on a bracket of road songs including "Barstow", "Cahokian", "California" and "Voodoo Candle". These songs together with the haunting wail of Spencers guitar work enunciated the struggles and harsh realities faced by individuals in the regional diversity of modern day America.

Two songs, "Tear Stained Eye" and "Windfall", from the Son Volt album Trace were familiar to a lot of the audience. The former having been covered on least two occasions by Australian country artists and the later evoked images of "driving across the night with an all night radio" with a Cajun feel. Both songs could have been hits and are certainly anthems for a generation.

Mark Spencer formerly of the Blood Oranges remained seated in a chair throughout the evening. Spencer provided the body to a lot of the songs with his guitar work, which sounded a lot unlike guitar because of its tonings. The dexterity of his playing was astounding and to see and hear him play was worth the price of admission alone. Spencer confided to inquiries from the audience after the show that the Blood Oranges self-titled CD release had been acquired back and it was hoped that the Blood Oranges album would be released again.

In keeping with the singer songwriter focus of the night Farrar covered the Townes Van Zandt song "White Freight Liner Blues". The song was given its due respect as one suspects that Farrar might see himself as the Poet that Townes was considered to be both by his audience and his peers. Interestingly the song was and is covered by Steve Earle who performed it on the Rig Rock Deluxe "A Musical Salute to the American Truck Driver" compilation with Farrar's band Song Volt performed "Lookin' at the World Through a Windshield". A closer look at that album reveals that Mark Spencer produced the song covered by Kelly Willis "Truckstop Girl" a Lowell George/Bill Payne composition.

Another cover performed on the night was the Lennon/McCartney song "Tomorrow Never Knows" from the Revolver album. This song was given the psychedelic treatment by Spencer on guitar.

After two encores and hour and a half on stage the audience was happy with the show even though the songs and performance would have benefited from the interplay of the musicians and accompaniment that Farrar has surrounded himself with over the years. Solo it enabled the strength of the lyrical content and Farrar's' fragile voice to take centre stage and left us longing for a return visit in a band format in the not too distant future.

Set List

1. Doesn't Have to be This Way
2. 6 String Belief
3. Feel Free
4. All of Your Might
5. Greenwich Time
6. No Rolling Back
7. Greenwich Time
8. You don't have to trust the night
9. (By the Time we make it to) Barstow
10. She went away on me
11. Vitamins
12. Let me tell you to face up
13. Voodoo candle (Don't wanna be between two worlds)
14. Clear Day Thunder
15. Tear Stained Eye
16. California
17. Windfall


18. Can't Stop Thinkin'
19. Hardwood Floor
20. This puzzles figured out
21. Tomorrow Never Knows (Lennon/McCartney)
22. White Freight Liner Blues (Townes Van Zandt)

2nd Encore

23. Can't Roll

By Peter O'Keefe 2004

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