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Lead vocalist and songwriter, Sun Volt front man Jeff Farrar has long been a favourite of mine and with his unique vocal style he offer both a unique and memorable style every time he steps up to a microphone. On Note Of Blue Farrar’s vocal may not always be as pronounced as I have sometimes heard them but there is an embedded essence that edges into one’s subconscious. Plus, by some twist of fate his diction has never been better.
Contradictory was never in it. Here, the music is a little more forceful than on some Son Volt records. Farrar claims he wanted to place a greater emphasis on blues on this album, and ‘discover the tunings and guitar voicings’ of Skip James and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He certainly doesn’t allow any dust to settle as he prods and probes at America’s musical boundaries.
Son Volt was one of the bands that came out of Uncle Tupelo, the other to come from it is the acclaimed unit was the Jayhawks. A band I invariably like best when Mark Olson is in the line-up; but that is another story and one best kept for another day.
It took till “Cherokee St” for me to feel Farrar was cooking on all cylinders, although admittedly he does sound the business on opening track “Promise The World” (I love the pedal steel and fiddle work) and “Back Against The Wall” plus the relentless feel “Sinking Down” as no prisoners are taken as you have some inspired guitar it is typically what you would expect from Farrar.
The album is different to what I had anticipated, unless I had read the quote about Skip James and Mississippi Fred McDowell I wouldn’t have guessed he had been influenced that way. Others of note include the lyrically powerful “Threads And Steel” and with something of a mystical and simple feel “Cairo And Southern”.
“The Storm” is a sensitive story-ballad, warmed in choice acoustic guitar and Dobro the bare bones production see him edge open the heart and soul of the listener. It’s delightful stuff as he sings about how once he gets to California he will be fine. “Threads And Steel” is an inspired affair, simple but innovative, Farrar borrows lyrics from an old gospel song on this one to tell his story. Could he one day we have Son Volt record their interpretation of a blues gospel album.
Such is my love of Farrar voice I am disappointed on the rare occasions when a greater emphasis is on the instrumentation front. For his vocals and turn of phrase are like no other.
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