Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Gob Iron) wrapped up a three night residency at City Winery in New York City Sunday night. After selling out two shows, the father and proprietor of alternative country added a third set to the weekend.
There were several in attendance who were three for three; I only made it to the finale, but I and the rest of the crowd was still given a night to remember.
Opening the show was Laura Cantrell, a singer/songwriter from Nashville who has an incredibly deep appreciation for the history of country music. Locally, you might remember her as the host of “The Radio Thrift Shop,” a country music show on WFMU in New Jersey.
She performed a set of great tunes, often paying homage to Kitty Wells, who she said is the reason why she’s able to do what she does. Playing alongside her was Mark Spencer, a phenomenal guitarist and singer. You might recognize his name: He’s currently a member of Son Volt and played on their latest studio album, American Central Dust. He is a multi-talented musician and added an extreme amount of depth to Cantrell’s set. The two of them made for quite the opening act.
The first two nights at City Winery brought with them two different opening acts: Anna Ternheim (Friday) and Anders Parker (Saturday).
Cantrell played a solid hour-long set and got the entire crowd prepped for the man of the night…Mr. Jay Farrar. Taking the stage with guitarist/mandolinist/violinist Gary Hunt, Farrar played for a good 90+ minutes, opening with American Central Dust’s “Down to the Wire” and ending with “White Freightliner Blues.” Crowd favorites “Tear Stained Eye” and “Windfall” were in the setlist as well, making for a fantastically enjoyable evening for anyone with even an inkling of love for the art of alternative country.
Of American Central Dust, Farrar said, “The approach was to get back to more fundamental themes, both lyrically and musically, to make a more focused record.” Nothing could be truer about Son Volt’s album, but the same could be said for Farrar’s solo show.
When you strip away the album-making process and backing band and you leave this man with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, you get a fundamental and focused performance…The lyrics, the music…It’s a unique experience and one that proves just how important Farrar is to the history and future of alternative country music.