The alt-country party line on former Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt front man Jay Farrar is that once he dissolved his partnership with celebrated mumbler Jeff Tweedy, Tweedy went on to blaze all kinds of creative trails out of rootsy strum-and-twang, while Farrar tended shop close to home, slowly honing his hardscrabble vision of lost-highway Americana, one borrowed Marlboro at a time.
Yet Terroir Blues, Farrar's second solo album, suggests that the singer-songwriter's either gotten a bad rap or that he's gotten a totally appropriate rap and has begun taking advice from his rappers: Among the admittedly copious strums and twangs, Farrar buries lots of studio-as-an-instrument doodling and fussy post-rock diddling, and he even breaks up a patch of backward-guitar fuzz called "Space Junk" into six parts and scatters them among the proper songs just to keep stodgy No Depression readers on their toes. (Note to Jay: Grace the next album with "Space Jam," and I'll buy my own copy.)
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Of course, this doesn't mean that Tweedy and Farrar are storing their ambition in the same rucksack. Both men are songwriters first and sonic noodlers second, so choosing between Terroir Blues and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (if you feel you must) should be done thus: "I will wait for you in the green, green spaces wearing our post-industrial faces/Side by side sit the trash-pile twin and the 11th-century ceremonial center of the Mississippian" vs. "Shiny, shiny pants and beach-blond hair/A double-kick drum by the river in the summer." Will you side with good, or with evil?