First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2002, Volume 9, #9
Written by John Metzger
There’s no question that Jay Farrar is a terrific songsmith. But for whatever reason, his albums with Son Volt often felt a bit one-dimensional and constrained in their revved-up, Neil Young-meets-Gram Parsons twang. After its third release, however, Son Volt took an indefinite hiatus, and Farrar ventured into the studio to record Sebastopol, his first solo outing. The album put a greater emphasis on psychedelic arrangements and sunny pop melodies, and the songs were full of keyboards, drum loops, and acoustic guitars. In the end, the disc was pared down to a more manageable length, but fear not — the excised songs from Sebastopol form the foundation of Farrar’s recent five-song EP ThirdShiftGrottoSlack. Greenwich Time is a buoyant solo acoustic selection; Station to Station, amidst its shimmering guitars and placid piano, soars like an R.E.M. tune; Kind of Madness strikes a pose between its John Lennon-meets-Michael Stipe vocals and its Flowers-era Rolling Stones keyboards; and Dues milks Farrar’s plaintive voice for all it’s worth, even as the song begins to churn in exultation. Rounding out the album is a remixed rendition of Damn Shame that takes on a funky edge reminiscent of The Byrds’ Fido. Though the music on ThirdShiftGrottoSlack spans less than fourteen minutes, it proves that sometimes good things do come in small packages. ˝
ThirdShiftGrottoSlack is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box