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Jay Farrar
Terroir Blues
Artemis Records/ Act Resist Records
www.jayfarrar.net


After 2001's Sebastopol I really had no idea what Jay Farrar would turn around and grace the listening public with on his newest release. My hopes were very high. The first time I listened to Terroir Blues, I will admit I was a bit disappointed. But I gave it a second chance, and a third, and that magical thing that happens with some records, happened. Each time I listened to the record it became more and more amazing to me. You might say I began to "get it".

The reason it took a listen or two to sink in? Terroir Blues is not a record that is easy to listen to. It is full of strange noisy passages and odd effects, the abstract continuation of the few instrumental song-separating passages on Sebastopol. Some songs are buried under dense layers of reverb; others are stark and defined. But amongst the 23 tracks, there are numerous gems- songs that would have made an incredible album entirely on their own, if Farrar had decided to not make the album more of a challenge to listen to, and I would think, to produce. The more song-like songs are poster-children for the second act of the alt-country movement. Slow, grinding dirges; beautiful and complex, laced with pedal steel guitar, crystal-like acoustic guitars, and Farrar's somber voice, these songs speak directly to the soul, leaving very little for the mind to try to come to terms with on its own.

"Who do you know? Who do you trust? Who keeps you sane? Who cleans off the dust? Who's got you down, thinking the best roads lead out of town? Who saves the day?" The opening lines of "No Rolling Back" are issued like a challenge, a sign of things to come on the journey that this cd will undoubtedly take the listener through. Songs like "Heart On The Ground" and "Hard Is The Fall" ably display the talent of Farrar, and the reason he is so respected by listeners and musicians alike. Farrar's voice shines on this record, attaining an incredibly clear and resonant timbre it has previously only hinted at. "California" is possibly one of the most haunting and beautiful songs ever written, "It's been written before but it's worth repeating/ No one could dream a place like California…" It is full of strong images that will speak directly to the soul of anyone who has ever wandered the streets of Los Angeles or San Francisco or any of the towns between. "Dent County" is filled with strings and piano, creating a solemn mood of sadness and yearning. The album comes to its end with some alternate versions of a few songs, and ends with the same challenging questions with which it began. The difference? After a few listens to the entire record, the answers are possibly just a bit clearer.

And here is the secret strength of Terroir Blues. SOUL. Not the Rick James/James Brown kind of soul, but the Ralph Stanley/Earl Scruggs/Ramblin' Jack Elliott type of soul. Good ol' fashioned American countryside soul.

-David DeVoe

Track listing:

1. No Rolling Back
2. Space Junk I
3. Hard Is The Fall
4. Fool King's Crown
5. Space Junk II
6. Hanging On To You
7. Cahokian
8. Heart On The Ground
9. Out On The Road
10. All Your Might
11. Space Junk III
12. California
13. Walk You Down
14. Space Junk IV
15. Dent County
16. Fish Fingers Norway
17. Space Junk V
18. Hanging On To You II
19. Hard Is The Fall II
20. Jam
21. Heart On The Ground II
22. No Rolling Back II
23. Spack Junk VI


 

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