Stone, Steel & Bright Lights
01. Doesn't Have to Be This Way
02. Greenwich Time
03. 6 String Belief
04. Feel Free
05. Make It Alright
06. No Rolling Back
07. Damn Shame
08. All of Your Might
10. Heart On the Ground
12. Fool King's Crown
14. Voodoo Candle
15. Damaged Son
16. Feed Kill Chain
17. Clear Day Thunder
18. Lucifer Sam
19. Like A Hurricane
- LIVE AT SLIM'S BONUS DVD INCLUDED -
01. Greenwich Time
02. 6 String Belief
04. Feel Free
05. Make It Alright
06. Damn Shame
08. Hanging On to You
09. Clear Day Thunder
10. Lucifer Sam
11. Like a Hurricane
STONE, STEEL & BRIGHT LIGHTS:
Track 1 (recorded at soundcheck) The Blue Note - Columbia, MO - October 25,
Track 2 The Pageant - St. Louis, MO - September 27, 2003
Track 3 The Orange Peel - Asheville, NC - September 14, 2003
Track 4 The Blue Note - Columbia, MO - October 25, 2003
Track 5 Headliners - Louisville, KY - October 11, 2003
Track 6 The Orange Peel - Asheville, NC - September 14, 2003
Track 7 The Blue Note - Columbia, MO - October 25, 2003
Track 8 Warsaw - Brooklyn, NY - Octover 17, 2003
Track 9 The Blue Note - Columbia, MO - October 25, 2003
Track 10 Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, GA - September 13, 2003
Track 11 The Blue Note - Columbia, MO - October 25, 2003
Track 12 Varsity Theater - Baton Rouge, LA - September 18, 2003
Track 13 Headliners - Louisville, KY - October 11, 2003
Track 14 20th Century Theater - Cincinnati, OH - October 22, 2003
Track 15 Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, GA - September 13, 2003
Track 16 Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, GA - September 13, 2003
Track 17 Luther's Blues - Madison, WI - September 25, 2003
Track 18 The Blue Note - Columbia, MO - October 25, 2003
LIVE AT SLIM'S:
All tracks recorded at Slim's - San Francisco, CA - January 23, 2004
JAY FARRAR - vocals, guitars, harmonica
EVEN BERODT - bass
DAVE BRYSON - drums, percussion
BRANDON BUTLER - guitars, lap steel, maracas
DERRICK DeBORJA - keyboard
JOE WINKLE - guitars
All songs by Jay Farrar ©2004 Grain Elevator Songs (BMI) / Administered by
"Lucifer Sam" by Syd Barrett ©1967 Essex Music Inc. (ASCAP) / "Like
A Hurricane" by Neil Young ©1979 Silver Fiddle Music (ASCAP)
Stone, Steel & Bright Lights recorded by Scott Norton. Mixed at Head Gear
Production Studios, Brooklyn, NY by John Agnello except "Greenwich Time" mixed
by Scott Norton. Engineering Assistance by Scott Norton, Thayer McClanahan,
and Chris Spanninga.
Live At Slim's (Bonus DVD) recorded by Chris Ienni and Vinnie Palese.
Mixed at Head Gear Production Studios, Brooklyn, NY by John Agnello except "Greenwich
Time," "6-String Belief," "California" and "Make
It Alright" mixed by Scott Norton. Engineering Assistance by Scott Norton,
Thayer McClanahan, and Chris Spanninga.
Footage shot by Dave Schwartz, Scott White and Sean Moran
DVD Film Direction, production, and mastering by Dave Schwartz for Fast Atmosphere
Audio mastered by Greg Calbi and Steve Fallone at Sterling Sound - New York,
Art Direction and Design by Madge Duffey
Photographs by Devonie Baker, ND Koster, Meri Simon
Ask anyone who was lucky enough to squeeze into Cicero's Basement Bar in St.
Louis in 1989 or the Blue Note in Columbia. Missouri in 1993 to watch Uncle
Tupelo play a show. Even way back then, Jay Farrar was a riveting live performer.
Farrar's performances have gained in depth and in craft since those days.
But if you are among the thousands of listeners who've had the good fortune
to catch Farrar with Son Volt in the mid-1990s, or watch one of his remarkable
solo performances in recent years, you already knew that.
Yet one thing has puzzled Farrar’s listeners over the years: Why, after nearly
15 years of making records, had he never released a live disc of his songs
to capture his distinctive live performances?
Farrar's latest record (and a bonus DVD) on Transmit Sound
— Stone, Steel & Bright
Lights — answers that particular riddle at last. Recorded in September and
October 2003, Stone, Steel & Bright Lights culls songs from Farrar's last
three records — plus two new songs ("Doesn't Have to Be This Way" and "6
String Belief") and dazzling covers of Pink Floyd's "Lucifer Sam" and
Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane." Along the way, the new record (recorded
with Washington DC alt-rockers Canyon as the backing band) documents the acrobatic
swings from quiet intimacy to guitar roar that typify Farrar's approach to
Many of the best live records in rock history — the Rolling Stones' Get Your
Ya-Ya's Out, Neil Young's Live Rust, the Jefferson Airplane's Bless Its Pointed
Little Head, the Mekons' New York — find those artists resisting the urge merely
to regurgitate their studio recordings. Rather, they reinterpret, reinvent
and try out new material.
Farrar also points to some other live favorites down through the years. “You
can take the man out of the seventies, but you can't take the seventies out
of the man,” he observes. “ZZ Top's Fandango and Cheap Trick's Live at Budokan,
as well as The Band's The Last Waltz were highlighted live records for me over
Farrar takes a similar tack as those classics did on his own
Stone, Steel & Bright
Lights. After all, his recent three solo recordings — Sebastopol (2002), ThirdShiftGrottoSlack
(2002) and Terroir Blues (2003) — have been distinguished by Farrar's innovative
use of the studio's technological wizardry and craft. Translating such material
to the stage is a high wire act of sorts. Can material that is carefully honed
and tweaked in the studio stand up to the stern test of soundchecks, repetition
Stone, Steel & Bright Lights proves that the heart of Farrar's last three
records lay not in manipulating tape but in his superb songwriting. The live
versions of Farrar's most tricked-out and trippy experiments of recent years
— Terroir Blues' "Fool King's Crown," or Sebastopol's "Voodoo
Candle" — are triumphantly reimagined on the new record.
"The idea was to reinterpret the songs, to stretch them out a bit," says
Farrar. "Allowing the collective style of the new group of musicians to
breathe seemed the way to go instead of retracing the original CD versions."
He cites "Fool King's Crown" as a good example of the new approach. "We
used keyboard instead of electric sitar, played electric guitars instead of
acoustic guitars and made the tempo faster," observes Farrar.
Another element that longtime fans will notice on Stone, Steel & Bright
Lights is the warm groove imparted to the songs. In part, that feeling of sonic
abundance stems from Farrar’s choice of Washington D.C. alt-country rockers
Canyon to back him on the tour that produced Stone, Steel and Bright Lights.
Canyon has made three records over the past few years – a self-titled debut
followed by Empty Rooms and their own live record, Live in NYC. The five-piece
band features a two guitar attack (Brandon Butler and Joe Winkle) augmented
with keyboards (Derrick DeBorija) and a crack rhythm section (bassist Evan
Berodt and drummer Dave Bryson). Canyon’s backing provides Farrar with a fuller
sound than he’s had on tour over the past few years, and they took quickly
to the challenge of translating Farrar’s newer songs from studio to stage.
“I was looking for a band to take these songs on the road,” says Farrar. “Canyon's
CD Empty Rooms was passed along to me, and apart from liking the record, I
thought that the five-piece instrumentation of the band would work with my
songs.” The fact that the band was already a self-contained working unit also
appealed to Farrar. “Canyon brought their common experiences and chemistry
as a working band to these songs,” he says.
Stone, Steel & Bright Lights features two new Farrar compositions
in its first three tracks. “Doesn’t Have to Be This Way” and “6 String Belief”
– which bookend a terrific solo take on ThirdShiftGrottoSlack’s “Greenwich
Time” – are among the most straightforward tunes that Farrar has written
in recent years, touching on headlines in the newspaper and trends in the
Farrar says that “Doesn't Have to Be This Way” was written and recorded during
the tour, at a soundcheck at Columbia, Missouri’s Blue Note club – which was
an early Uncle Tupelo stronghold and a frequent pit stop on Farrar’s tour itineraries.
“It reflects the headlines in the newspapers during that period,” he says of
the song, which frames its surging protest against a “new world of shame” with
a chiming piano and mournful lap steel.
The other new song on Stone, Steel & Bright Lights, “6
String Belief,” touches on an issue that seems equally close to the songwriter’s
heart – the strength of rock and roll to renew and redeem itself in moments
when it becomes jaded, corrupted and bankrupt. The song, says Farrar, “deals
with the idea of rebellion against the status quo in a music industry context.
When corporate blitzes and payola reach a saturation point at the mainstream
level, it spawns a reaction of good music – a grassroots, do-it-yourself
level.” He calls the song “two-thirds idealism and one third reality.”
As Stone, Steel & Bright Lights unfolds, some of the best
songs of Farrar’s solo career roll out of the speakers in astonishing new
guises or with clever new twists in arrangement or instrumentation. The rollicking
shuffle of Sebastopol’s opening song, “Feel Free,” gains power and urgency
in its live version. That same record’s “Damn Shame” takes on even more sour
twang and zest. Terroir Blues’ mournful elegy “Cahokian” echoes powerfully
as lap steel and keyboard wash over Farrar’s voice.
Farrar and Canyon don’t forget their rock’n’roll, either. The aforementioned
“Fool King’s Crown” and “Voodoo Candle” are crushingly melodic rock. Sebastopol’s
“Feed Kill Chain” is given an undulating but anthemic treatment, while that
same record’s “Clear Day Thunder” packs a gritty, downright menacing wallop.
Those powerful sounds run through the two covers that provide
Stone, Steel & Bright
Lights. One of those covers – a super-charged version of Neil Young’s “Like
a Hurricane” – nods to one of the oft-acknowledged inspirations behind Farrar
and Canyon’s music
“When it came time to pick a cover,” says Farrar, “Neil Young was a common
influence. ‘Like a Hurricane’ was the most bombastic one we could play, so
that's the one that stuck.”
Odder – but clever and inspired – was Farrar’s decision to dip into his back
catalogue of covers and pull out “Lucifer Sam,” a Syd Barrett song from Pink
Floyd’s 1967 debut record, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Farrar says that “it
started out as an alternate cover song. I remembered the song because I used
to sing it with Uncle Tupelo years ago, and Canyon reminded me a bit of early
Pink Floyd anyway, so it seemed like a match.” Caught on the new record, “Lucifer
Sam” becomes downright combustible.
Like many great live records, Stone, Steel & Bright Lights
provides a snapshot of an artist at the height of his songwriting and interpretive
powers. Farrar’s mixture of clever wordplay, sharp imagery and deep sentiment,
married to melodies that stick and backed up with strong arrangements, finds
a straightforward and kinetic voice on this record.
Stone, Steel & Bright Lights listeners also receive a DVD
featuring selected performances from the Slim’s show that forms the backbone
of the new record. Eleven songs, including the new “6 String Belief” and
the covers of “Lucifer Sam” and “Like a Hurricane,” make up the bonus disc.
“The DVD provides a straightforward glimpse – a short document of the tour,”
observes Farrar. The combination CD/DVD, he says, “will maybe give some people
a chance to see the songs presented live that would not have an opportunity
to do so otherwise. I still have not performed in Japan, for instance.”
Hearing Farrar and Canyon launch into “Lucifer Sam” is a treat,
but watching Canyon guitarist Brandon Butler first tease – and then assault
– his guitar strings with maracas tells a story that goes beyond the terrific
sounds on Stone, Steel & Bright Lights. It’s a story that lasted 13,
049 miles and 38 cities, used 678 guitar strings and entertained thousands
of fans who find their own 6 String Belief in Farrar’s music.