Music

Amy Farris: Anyway

Jason MacNeil

Amy Farris

Anyway

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2004-05-04
UK Release Date: 2004-06-14
Amazon
iTunes

Amy Farris is from Austin, Texas, but what separates her from the rest of those singer-songwriters from the city is that she didn't relocate to earn the credibility of her peers. It's her stomping ground. Farris thus has a leg up on those who move to the city to learn and ply their musical crafts as she knows what people want around those parts. Another distinction is that she doesn't go the coffeehouse route to her roots music. It's difficult to do that with a fiddle to begin with, but Farris goes down a darker, dustier path with this latest album.

Produced by Dave Alvin, the record begins with "Drivin' All Night Long", with the feathery vocals of Farris leading the way. The track is like a worn shoe -- easy to get into and hard to ignore. Her harmony vocals during the chorus don't quite shine but during the bridge her twang gets her over the proverbial bar. Drummer Don Heffington also is strong on the opener, recalling early Steve Earle and The Dukes. That is, if Earle had a fiddle. Come to think of it, Stacey Earle might be a good comparison, although Farris has less of the childlike wonder in her pitch. What comes off much finer is the brilliant "Heading East", a waltz-ish melody that the Cowboy Junkies could do if they were ever happy in their songs. "Hanging in my kitchen is a dusty plastic cross / And with Jesus in the middle glowing green in the dark," she sings as the fiddle gives it a mountain-cum-Celtic sway. The sharp ending leaves something to be desired though.

Farris is all over the place, especially on the Django-like ragtime of "Undecided", resembling Squirrel Nut Zippers and their earlier albums. She brings it around to more of a country honky-tonk flavor as it glides along with the upright bass and acoustic guitar touches. The pop tint to the title track initially is questionable. By the second verse, one is on board for the dreamy, '60s girl group meets Mama Cass-esque arrangement. Another asset is how old-school it is, not using any contemporary radio-friendly roots base. Alvin's solo on baritone guitar gives it more substance also. "Pretty Dresses" has her going way back to the likes of Patsy Cline or early Loretta Lynn. Or, think of Neko Case and Carloyn Marks or Kelly Hogan in today's musical circles.

As luck would have it, Farris runs out of gas on the sultry, smoky "My Heart's Too Easy to Break." Feeling like it's been taken out of the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction, Farris gives a lounge lizard delivery as she adds an organ to her fiddle, making for a messy three minutes and change. However, the cover of John Doe's and Exene Cervenka's "Poor Girl" is delectable -- a great train-rolling ditty that glides into the catchy, ear-candy chorus. Perhaps she was listening to too much of the Traveling Wilburys when recording this song. It's the type of number that appears to be nearing its sixth minute despite wrapping up in just over four. "Hard to Say" is hard to listen to, a blend of the Squirrel Nut Zippers charm but with a definitive jazz back-beat and arrangement. "Why do I dream of you?" she sings before the fiddle tries to bring the somber jazz beat to life. Doesn't work!

Next we get a barren "Big Louise", a perfect complement to PJ Harvey's Dance Hall at Louse Point. On this dreary number that revisits signature arrangements of the '40s, Farris sounds at home. A military beat on "Let Go" has a certain Spaghetti Western hue while she nails the song that could have been penned by either Dwight Yoakam or Chris Isaak. Anyway you put it, this album is her best thus far! Alejandro Escovedo has been done proud with this one.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image