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"Before you know it as the years go by, you're just like other people you have seen, with all those peculiar human ailments. Just another vehicle for temper and vanity and rashness and all the rest. Who wants it? Who needs it? These things occupy the place where a man's soul should be." -- Henderson the Rain King

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Switching It Over To A.M., Searching For A Truer Sound

Tonight I saw Jay Farrar play at the Tractor Tavern in beautiful, beautiful Ballard. The Tractor is probably my favorite music venue in Seattle. I like it cause it's one of those places that music lovers go to see good down-home American bands. The Tractor's slogan is "A Nice Diesel Place To See Music" which I think sums the place up pretty well. Nobody dresses up, nobody goes to pick up people, it's all about the music. The space itself is simple, but serves its purpose well. The sound is always top notch and the stage is at that perfect height where you can always see but at the same time you don't feel like the band is staring down at you. Even at a sold out show like tonight, there's always enough room to maneuver around, and if you do get stuck in the back you're still closer to the stage than you could get in most venues. For you non-vegetarians out there, they even serve BBQ at the bar.

What better place could there be to see an artist like Jay Farrar who has to be one of the hardest working, most authentic musicians working today? I've seen him play 3 times previously, and was lucky enough to catch Son Volt at Bumbershoot a few years ago. I've always been impressed by his professionalism on stage. As soon as one song ends, he makes a couple of quick tweaks to his guitar and then its on to the next one. I'm telling you, the man can plow through a set list. At a couple of the shows I've seen he's managed to play over 30 songs, which is about 10-15 more than most artists manage. You get the impression that although he likes what he's doing, he's also working hard to earn his paycheck for the night.

Of the shows I've seen him play, tonight was my favorite. The songs were mostly off of Sebastopol and Terrior Blues, but he mixed in some old Son Volt songs, and even some new stuff from the newly recorded Son Volt album (including a political song called "Joe Citizen Blues"). There were lots of highlights including a great bluesy version of "Damn Shame" featuring Jay jamming on the harmonica (somewhat similar to the Memphis Mix version of the song which you can download from free from Amazon), an excellent rendition of "Tear-Stained Eye", a couple of lines from "Whiskey Bottle" mixed into "Heart On The Ground" to appease a pleading Uncle Tupelo fan, and a cover of Buck Owens' "Love's Gonna Live Here". He must have been in a good mood, as he even talked a little between some songs, either making jokes or introducing the next song in the set. Jay played acoustic guitar all night and was accompanied by Mark Spencer (formerly of the Blood Oranges) who was phenomenal.

The opening act tonight was Anders Parker (of Varnaline fame). Anders played a solid set with songs that kept him moving back and forth from his acoustic guitar, to a harmonica and keyboard. One highlight was a cool cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", but my favorite tune was a Varnaline song that's simply titled "Song". While Anders had a distinct sound, there was something about his music that struck me as similar to Jay's. I'm not surprised that they're touring together, as I think they complement each other nicely.


Jay coming on for an encore.

"Can you deny there's nothing greater, there's nothing more than the traveling hands of time?" - Jay Farrar "Tear Stained Eye"