All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Book Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

5

Falling Cars and Junkyard Dogs

Doug Collette By

Sign in to view read count
Falling Cars and Junkyard Dogs
Jay Farrar
192
ISBN: #1593765126
Soft Skull Press
2013

Anyone who's familiar with Jay Farrar's work with Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, his various collaborations such as New Multitudes and Gob Iron or his solo work knows he has a love of language almost as passionate as his love for music. It should come as no surprise then that he would inevitably write a book or that the publication would reaffirm that impression of Farrar as a writer.

But Falling Cars and Junkyard Dogs extends Farrar's talents as he exhibits an eye for detail and a grasp of the human condition that proceeds directly from his own introspective nature. Neither virtue would matter so much if he were not as much of a craftsman in prose as in songwriting, but it's also a fact that he's honed a healthy detachment from himself as well as the world around him through which he provides himself, and, in turn, his readers, an almost crystal clear vision to depict.

Take his account of an evening with founder member of the Byrds Roger McGuinn. Farrar is clearly star struck, but no less in awe of the man who's mentoring him than the technology McGuinn has surrounded himself with. So when Farrar accepts the rock icon's advisory "not to bother with that country stuff..." it is with grace and deference, but also a steadfast refusal to accept the caution as gospel. Son Volt's Honky Tonk album of 2013 stands as object lesson of wisdom filtered through personal experience.

Portraits of a Musical Life is replete with such instances and many of them are the photos Farrar includes from his various travels and tours around America with his various musical units. He seems to be able to discern value in an image of a deserted warehouse next to train tracks as much as a roadside sign left empty after years of neglect. Jay Farrar is too cognizant of history, based on his own family experience and independent adventures, to overlook the obvious in such objects and how they once played an integral part of people's lives.

To his further credit as an author, Jay Farrar never succumbs to preaching or pontificating, preferring instead to merely offer observations or describe action, letting the reader decide for himself the value of the incident. Thus, his description of the moment of fracture in his friendship with a band member is totally without rancor (or names for that matter) and captures in hindsight the baffled emotional reaction he grappled with at the time it happened, the aftereffects of which he is clearly still processing at the time of that writing and this book's publication in 2013.

Catharsis and the exorcism of demons is certainly at the heart of many of the essays in Falling Cars and Junkyard Dogs, particularly the ones like "lead Car in the Parade," where Jay Farrar describes his father's behavior and attitudes in both heroic and all too human terms. But the author always evinces acceptance of, not just resignation to, his experience(s) and the meaning(s) within, and often as not, like the vignettes related to New Orleans theme weaving in and through close to two-hundred pages, there's a palpable affection for his subjects and an empathy that says as much about him as it does them.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 Book Reviews
Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968
by Doug Collette
Published: April 14, 2018
Read My Life in the Key of E Book Reviews
My Life in the Key of E
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: March 19, 2018
Read The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums Book Reviews
The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums
by Steve Provizer
Published: March 3, 2018
Read The Universe and John Coltrane: The Physics of Cosmic Vibrations Book Reviews
The Universe and John Coltrane: The Physics of Cosmic...
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Good Morning Blues Book Reviews
Good Morning Blues
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: January 11, 2018
Read Never Say No to a Rock Star: In the Studio with Dylan, Sinatra, Jagger and More Book Reviews
Never Say No to a Rock Star: In the Studio with Dylan,...
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: January 2, 2018
Read "The Art of Conduction" Book Reviews The Art of Conduction
by Riccardo Brazzale
Published: June 30, 2017
Read "I Scare Myself by Dan Hicks" Book Reviews I Scare Myself by Dan Hicks
by Chris Mosey
Published: May 6, 2017