Most articles about Jay Farrar lead with his history as an alt-country legend. Considering how sleepy his solo work has sounded since leaving Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, though, the only remnants of his whiskey-fueled Americana are those press references. Until now, anyway, thanks to...Canyon? Yes, this out-of-nowhere alt-country five-piece served as the backing band for his 2003 tour, and the resulting live album, Stone, Steel & Bright Lights, should convince old Farrar fans to come running back.
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Stone leads deceptively with three soft songs, two of which are new tracks complete with clumsy protest swipes like "Oil powers the economy/Tax breaks for the Humvee." The album finally opens up on fourth track "Feel Free" with Canyon's layered guitars, lively drums and sweeping synthesizers. "Damn Shame" delivers a poppy kick only hinted at on ThirdShiftGrottoSlack, and "Clear Day Thunder" has grown so much someone should test for steroids. Even when songs like "Cahokian" and "Heart on the Ground" slow the set down, Canyon throws new instruments into the mix and tops the string-riddled LP versions. Canyon's support on Stone not only gives Farrar's solo material new life, but it also turns his solo career's best-of album into a better-than-ever album.