Stone, Steel & Bright Lights

Stone, Steel & Bright Lights

by Jay Farrar
     
 

Jay Farrar might not be the most demonstrative guy around, but when he takes the stage, he always manages to quietly captivate -- as he proves on this, his first live offering. Stone, Steel & Bright Lights, which was recorded at a passel of shows in the fall of 2003, brings new perspective to several of Farrar's older songs -- both "Vitamins" and "Make ItSee more details below

Overview

Jay Farrar might not be the most demonstrative guy around, but when he takes the stage, he always manages to quietly captivate -- as he proves on this, his first live offering. Stone, Steel & Bright Lights, which was recorded at a passel of shows in the fall of 2003, brings new perspective to several of Farrar's older songs -- both "Vitamins" and "Make It Alright" are considerably punchier than the versions that appear on Sebastopol -- while a brace of newer offerings show the singer-songwriter's willingness to stretch his boundaries. To that end, the onetime Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt leading light forays into Springsteen territory on the piano-laced "Doesn't Have to Be This Way" and conjures up images of the Velvet Underground's third album on the placidly furious, entirely solo "Six String Belief." For most of the disc, Farrar is backed by frequent collaborators Canyon, who do a good job of pushing him to the limit on some songs, notably a woozy "Fool King's Crown" and a stark "Cahokian," which is powered by Brandon Butler's slide guitar. The band hit full stride on the disc's coda, where Farrar gets atypically lathered up, segueing a cover of Pink Floyd's "Lucifer Sam" into a lengthy, faithful take on Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane." Sounds like the bright lights of the stage suit Jay Farrar.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
Jay Farrar's career after the breakup of Uncle Tupelo has been dogged by two consistent creative gremlins -- a seeming inability to write songs with the same strength and emotional impact as his earlier work, and a frequent lack of worthy collaborators. However, anyone who has seen Farrar live since the release of Sebastopol can tell you the man has been in excellent form on-stage, as confident and engaged as he's ever been (occasionally even smiling and talking to the audience, rare events during his Son Volt gigs), and 2004's Stone, Steel & Bright Lights finds him sounding sharp, enthusiastic, and fully committed on a well-chosen set of post-Son Volt compositions recorded in concert. It also finds him working with a group of musicians who are at once sympathetic and forceful enough to add a personality of their own to the songs -- in the fall of 2003, Canyon served as Farrar's opening act and backing band, and while their sound dovetails flawlessly with Farrar's melodic sensibility, they sound less like a group of accompanying musicians and more like a band, and the frisson between the players (Farrar included) gives these recordings a much needed spark. The cool fire Farrar and Canyon generate together in front of an audience also helps to camouflage the frontman's other problem -- while he's cherry-picked the best material from Sebastopol, ThirdShiftGrottoSlack, and Terroir Blues for this set, the truth is none of these tunes connect quite like "Windfall," "Anodyne," or "Graveyard Shift," and while Farrar and Canyon give the songs their best efforts, this album doesn't fire on all cylinders until they roll into the two-song encore, in which they cover Syd Barrett and Neil Young. Stone, Steel & Bright Lights manages to capture Jay Farrar at his apex as a solo artist, while at the same time reminding fans of why his solo work continues to be so frustrating; thankfully, though, its strengths manage to outweigh its weaknesses by the time the 19 tracks are done.

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Product Details

Release Date:
06/08/2004
Label:
Artemis Records
UPC:
0699675152321
catalogNumber:
51523

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