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Jay Farrar coaxes winning blue collar musical values

The Troubadour, West Hollywood, Cal., January 20, 2005

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

At one point, Jay Farrar asked if any in the audience had missed the big inaugural ball in Washington, DC to be at tonight's show. But from the playing of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" over the house PA system between sets, to the Woody Guthrie-honoring lyrics in one of Farrar's newer songs, it was obvious from the outset that this was by no means a high society Republican crowd.

Farrar is a musical working class hero, if you will, and labored hard to earn this crowd's respect. From the rocking "Damn Shame" to the sensitive "Tear Stained Eye," to the traditional country arrangement that drove "Barstow," Farrar - with multi-instrumental assistance from Mark Spencer, who at one point was with Boston band The Blood Oranges, - clearly brought his "A" game this evening.

Whether working with just an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, or along with Spencer's sensitive lap steel guitar underpinning his vocals, the co-founder of Uncle Tupelo and leader of Son Volt, easily coaxed his winning blue collar musical values to life.

The bushy bearded Anders Parker opened this show with a little acoustic music of his own. In contrast to Farrar, however, Parker's guitar tones incorporated much harsher bar cords, which sounded far closer acoustic rock, than anything else.

A nice break from this grinding pattern arrived when Parker threw in a cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." But he was back to his old tricks on the last song, which ended with at least a couple of busted strings.

By exploring such dark emotional terrain, both Farrar and Parker wouldn't have fit in well with all the celebratory hoopla simultaneously going on over in the nation's capital. But for grim-faced ones that plopped down hard earned dollars to experience these sounds in person tonight, they certainly got their money's worth.

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