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On the Road

muaic_JayFarrarJay Farrar channels Kerouac, reaches the heart of America

While most musicians tour to promote new albums, Jay Farrar is taking his act cross-country for the same reason Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation hitchhiked the heartland: Farrar is in love with America.

A native of Belleville, Ill., Farrar became infatuated with the country at a young age: “In order for you to get anywhere, you have to drive through a big chunk of it,” he says. And like most young men, he found Kerouac in his early teens. “Here’s a method: just go out there and create and experience life,” he says of the writer. “That’s essentially what most people in bands do.”

While Kerouac was making-over Proust and Wolfe, Farrar was channeling Woodie Guthrie and The Byrds with early ’90s alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo. “It felt inspirational [to create something new], but we were conscious of the fact that we were drawing from other bands that had been over similar territory before,” he says. “The inspirational process is a chain.”

Uncle Tupelo would fracture before gaining commercial success, but Farrar went on to form Son Volt in 1994. After announcing a post-tour hiatus in 1999, Farrar began his solo work, which included the soundtrack to the indie film The Slaughter Rule (2002), and two full-length albums. Reforming Son Volt in 2005, Farrar has remained active in both touring and recording, including the band’s latest, American Central Dust, in 2009. But nothing beats a solo show: “It’s nice to get out and let the songs breathe,” he says.

Farrar’s latest solo work, 2009’s One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Music from Kerouac’s Big Sur, was a collaboration with Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard that found the pair poring over passages of Kerouac’s falling-to-pieces novel to set to music. The result scored the documentary of the same name.

“Big Sur” was one of Kerouac’s final great works, a narrator’s retreat to a cabin in Big Sur only to be confronted with the reality of his fame and the severity of his alcoholism. “There’s astounding beauty [in Big Sur], but there’s another aspect I think Kerouac felt,” says Farrar, who spent time touring in Northern California following the album’s release. “[At the cabin] most of the day the sun was blocked by the mountains, so it was a little bit creepy and dark and depressing.”

For the project, Farrar had to get into the headspace of a man succumbing to madness and self-destruction. “I was trying to touch on the themes that I could relate to. The unraveling of Kerouac and the realization that he’s addicted to alcohol—those are universal themes that are found throughout the blues,” he says.

Incidentally, Farrar has chosen to settle down in St. Louis, Mo., north of the Mississippi Delta, which birthed the blues. The transient environment was not only conducive to the project; it’s been stimulating for his career. “Music traveled up and down that river,” he explains. “St. Louis is a conduit of musical ideas. That city has a soul.”

For his tour, which hits The Rio Theatre on Friday, Nov. 11, Farrar digs deep into the past, through the Son Volt archives and even back to Uncle Tupelo. But expect to hear a few new songs off his two latest projects—including a new Son Volt record—slated for release in 2012.


Jay Farrar plays at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $16. For more information, call 423-8209.

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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