New breath for Woody Guthrie songs
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.
INDIE Brett Anderson –
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.
Songs for Woody: Breathing new life into Woody Guthrie lyrics are Will Johnson, Jay Farrar, Yim Yames and Anders Parker.