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the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Jay Farrar

eclectic reviews and opinions

Jay Farrar


(Fellow Guard/Artemis, 2001)

Farrar's solo debut has its moments, but it's plagued by an uneasy smell of desperation. After Uncle Tupelo's acrimonious mid-nineties split, the co-bandleader bounced back with a new band, Son Volt, and a fine album (Trace). Then he more-or-less released the same album twice more over the next two years; while his former partner Jeff Tweedy's Wilco released ambitious and varied efforts like Being There.

Sebastopol ends a three year creative silence from Farrar (a handful of compilation appearances aside), and it's immediately apparent that Farrar has gone to great lengths to shed the all-his-songs-sound-alike tag, and stimulate his own creativity, mostly by stirring in some synths and looped percussion and the sonic kitchen sink. It feels more than a little forced. So is it a funny thing that the album's strongest track by far, "Barstow," enlivened by vocalist Gillian Welch and her musical partner David Rawlings, sounds more like a Son Volt song than anything else here? Or did Farrar know that he had at least one tune that was too good to mess with?

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