New breath for Woody Guthrie songs

Kapi-Mana News - - REVIEW -

FOLK ROCK: Jay Far­rar, Will John­son, An­ders Parker and Yim Yames – New Mul­ti­tudes (Rounder)

Time to fess up – my ex­po­sure to Woody Guthrie has been crim­i­nally slight.

I’ve al­ways in­tended to delve into the record­ings of the folk lu­mi­nary but some other al­bum al­ways seemed a more press­ing pur­chase at the time.

Even as a fan of Wilco, I’ve failed to find much time for their Mer­maid Ave al­bums, where they put Woody Guthrie’s un­used verse to good use with Billy Bragg.

For New Mul­ti­tudes, Guthrie fa­natic Jay Far­rar ( Son Volt, Un­cle Tu­pelo) has brought in Will John­son (Cen­tro-matic), An­ders Parker (Gob Iron) and Yim Yames (My Morn­ing Jacket’s Jim James in dif­fer­ent per­sona) for an­other alt coun­try crack at lyrics Woody wrote but never recorded.

They’ve taken a very diplo­matic ap­proach, each pro­vid­ing lead vo­cals on three tunes and at times the al­bum plays like a sampler of the four mu­si­cians’ dis­tinct styles.

Di­ver­sity has never been Far­rar’s strong point and the con­tri­bu­tion of Woody’s words doesn’t change that. Pleas­ant enough tunes, but any­one with a Son Volt or Jay Far­rar solo al­bum in their col­lec­tion won’t be sur­prised by a sin­gle note.

I wasn’t fa­mil­iar with Parker be­fore this al­bum, but his lazy vo­cals are warm and wel­com­ing, evok­ing a vibe that will be ap­pre­ci­ated by any Byrds or Jay­hawks fan – par­tic­u­larly Fly High.

But the stars of the show are Yames and John­son, who bring soul and grav­ity to Guthrie’s words.

Yames works his ethe­real magic on My Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Mind and John­son’s mourn­ful Chlo­rine takes the al­bum from cu­rios­ity to what is likely to be con­sid­ered one of the finer Amer­i­cana re­leases of 2012.

Matthew Dal­las

IN­DIE Brett An­der­son –

Black Rain­bows

EMI Records

If Gener- ation X needed a sign that our hal­cyon days are over, then the back cover of ex-suede front man Brett An­der­son’s solo of­fer­ing, Black Rain­bows, is it.

Wit­ness Gen X’s cho­sen fey dis­en­chant­ment poster boy sit­ting down to a nice cup of tea.

In the 90s An­der­son in­spired an en­tire fash­ion/ art/ mu­sic move­ment of an­drog­y­nous, black clad, ur­ban hip­sters with his keenly arch lyrics and self- con­scious nasal whine. On Black Rain­bows, An­der­son seems to have ex­changed arch for avun­cu­lar.

Though his dis­tinc­tive voice is as recog­nis­able as ever, An­der­son’s lyrics sug­gest he’s more about own­ing up to re­grets, nostal­gia and dis­ap­point­ment than late night, club toi­let trysts these days. It’s strangely re­as­sur­ing – even hip­sters grow up.

But if you thought An­der­son was about to go softly into the good night of mid­dle age, The Ex­iles – a throb­bing, heart­felt slam on sub­ur­ban medi­ocrity – puts paid to that.

Kylie Klein-nixon


Songs for Woody: Breath­ing new life into Woody Guthrie lyrics are Will John­son, Jay Far­rar, Yim Yames and An­ders Parker.

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