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Farmer Not So John

Receiver – 1998 (Compass)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Farmer Not So John

The line between country and rock has been blurred for years, and the resulting blend of genres has often made classification a little sticky. The form evolved in a logical progression: Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers made it respectable, The Eagles made it profitable, and Steve Earle made it real.The rather preciously named Farmer Not So John choose to follow the trailblazed by the likes of Earle and Joe Ely, utilizing pedal steel, feedback and storytelling to impart the message.

FNSJ is essentially the duo of Mack Linebaugh and Richard McLaurin, as the rhythm section (bassist Brian Ray and drummer Sean Keith) departed shortly after this was completed. Almost as important as the band itself is producer Tucker Martine, who schooled FNSJ on the fine art of using the studio as an instrument.

When FNSJ pushes the rock needle, they give off the inevitable Wilco/Son Volt vibe, but when they slow it down, they exude the quiet grace and power of the Volebeats. Sticking to their folk roots results in moments suggesting Timbuk 3 or Bruce Springsteen. There is a definite power in FNSJ's presentation, and although the country elements here surface in varying degrees, the overall effect is charming and highly listenable.