7/11/98

7/11/98

From Jay Farrar's perspective, the sky is always overcast....

FROM JAY FARRAR’S perspective, the sky is always overcast. Maybe because he never looks up, only down or back. Down to his heart to see who’s broken it. Back to his rural childhood in Middle America, or to his days in seminal alt-country rockers Uncle Tupelo.

‘Wide Swing Tremolo’, Farrar’s third album with Son Volt, finds him revisiting the [I]”hailstone halos and country-blues wailings”[/I] of his dusty past. Reverently, he guides us from one touchstone to the next – revisiting twangy Tupelo with ‘Medicine Hat’, touring Nashville with the proper country-western balladry of ‘Hanging Blue Side’, pausing to wink at erstwhile Tupelo collaborator Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco in the tender musings of ‘Carry You Down’.

Occasional wince-worthy indulgences are outweighed by moments of gentle grace (‘Strands’ and ‘Dead Man’s Clothes’, most beautifully). If much of ‘Wide Swing Tremolo’ shuffles about aimlessly, gazing disconsolately at a beer-sodden floor, it does so with a warm, dozy rhythm all its own. Even its clumsiest fumblings sketch the gestures of a sweet and exquisite dance.

Farrar may be gazing over his shoulder with blinkered melancholy, but really, it’s not such a bad vantage point to have.