For Jay Farrar, these are the worst
of times and the best of times, to appropriate
and paraphrase a famous
line. As a songwriter and musician
with the spirit of a Woody Guthrie
– or at least, the Carter Family – the
economy and world woes provided
the fire and fury for this comeback
collection of protest music.
Farrar founded Uncle Tupelo, before
that band ruptured to become Jeff
Tweedy’s Wilco and Farrar’s Son Volt.
The late, great original Son Volt, with
multi-instrumentalist brothers Jim
and Dave Boquist, was then laid to rest
– unofficially, that is, with repeated
promises of a reunion. With American
Central Dust, we get “mark II.”
These are the times and the album
Farrar may have been made for. In
“Dynamite,” “When the Wheels Don’t
Move,” and the closer, “Jukebox of
Steel,” Farrar has penned simple anthems
populated by familiar figures
searching for what they thought was
right, only to have the ground pulled
out from beneath their feet.
Throughout, the music is alive with
a raw-boned grace. Farrar’s simple
strummed acoustic-guitar melodies
are wrapped within guitarist Mark
Spencer’s Telecaster lines that have
tone of rusted barbed wire.
American Central Dust is an epic
lament for the soul of the nation, an
album that gets back to the roots of
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’09 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.