Friday, September 18, 2009

Farrar to helm Mermaid Ave. 3

Well this is just a fascinating nugget of information: Son Volt's Jay Farrar has been picked by Nora Guthrie to write and record original music for another batch of unreleased Woody Guthrie lyrics.

And Farrar has reached out to Anders Parker (the Varnaline front man who recorded a previous album of folk covers with Farrar under the name Gob Iron), Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Will Johnson of Centro-matic, according to the Austin Chronicle.

The Wilco & Billy Bragg Mermaid Avenue albums are still favorites of mine, for their versatility, excellence of the lyrics and the loose and joyous vibe that surrounds the projects. Plus, I've long said that "Remember the Mountain Bed" is the greatest song ever written.

So what will Farrar find in the Guthrie archives? And perhaps more importantly, what will he do with the lyrics? Though he's been known to experiment, that hasn't always led to the best results. While I like every Son Volt and solo Farrar album, there's really no denying that his post-Uncle Tupelo output peaked with Trace.

It's the collaborations that sound most exciting to me. Farrar and Parker work great together, and Johnson and James bring that versatility that was the hallmark of the first two Mermaid Avenue records. I'm sure other collaborators will find their way into the project, like Natalie Merchant did for her understated and excellent female vocals on the first round of Mermaid recordings. And while a Wilco collaboration is probably out of the question, what if Farrar brought Bragg back into the fold for a song?

Perhaps most exciting is the way Johnson describes how the lyrics jumped at him:
"Jay sent me a priority mail package full of the lyrics, and I opened it at 4:30 in the afternoon," Johnson told the Austin Chronicle. "Within 17 minutes, I had already documented this one called 'Chorine My Sheba Queen' to the recording machine. That speaks far more about the song than anything I did. The lyrics struck me in a way that the music sounded automatic. It made such sense to my soul and my spirit. It's got an empty and regretful tone but in a very beautiful way. I just latched onto it."

Uncle Tupelo - Do Re Mi (Woody Guthrie cover)

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