Medicine Hat or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jay Farrar


Discover Something New Every Day: The Challenge

On my drive back home from Tennessee on Sunday afternoon I played my newly-purchased Son Volt CD American Central Dust.

I-75 North from Knoxville into Kentucky is an awful place on Sunday afternoons, jammed with crazy truckers hogging the left lane, rage-filled men who’ve had to spend the day with their wives’ relatives, reckless kids racing back to school, and mamaws who should have given up their cars last year.

I didn’t care. I just let Jay Farrar’s way-out voice and asymmetrical lyrics wash all over me.

I used to worry that I didn’t always understand Farrar’s sideways, abstract songs, but I’ve learned to just take them as the gifts they are: loosely-related words situated next to each other orchestrated by thrashing guitars, clunky piano playing and, occasionally, fiddles, mandolines, organs or accordions. His songs make the most lovely and provocative tone poems. Sometimes reminiscent of Neil Young, The Byrds, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, The Carter Family, or Hank Williams, his compositions are familiar yet completely original.

I’m not one of those geeky fans who knows the intimate details and evolution of Farrar’s various musical incarnations, but I do know that when everything is going wrong for me, Jay Farrar can fix it. His songs will wail me home safe and sound.

Jay Farrar’s “Medicine Hat”(from Wide Swing Tremelo)

THERE WILL BE DROUGHTS AND DAYS INUNDATED UNVEILINGS FREE FROM SATURATION DEPARTURES RAISED WITH NO MASQUERADING THERE WILL BE TEACHERS THAT DIE BY THEIR OWN HAND PUNDITS THAT PUSH HEADLONG FOR ATONEMENT FRIENDS AND FOLLOWERS DEVOTED TO LIVING THERE WILL BE WATCHERS THAT PLY FOR NEW CONFINES AND THOSE COMMITTED TO SOCIETY’S CIRCLES UNWARY COGS WITH NO CADENCE OF VIRTUE THERE WILL BE RIGHT THERE WILL BE WRONG DROP OF A HAT AND IT’S ALREADY STARTED JUST LIKE THAT AND THE DEED IS DONE WHAT I’D GIVE NOW FOR THAT HAT TO BE MEDICINE THE TIME IS NOW TO BE ON THE RUN THERE WILL BE MACHINATIONS UNFORESEEN SLEEPWALKING SENSE FROM A BAD DREAM NO PROMENADE WALK IN THE PARKWAY THERE WILL BE CATCHWORDS FILLED WITH INFECTION CIRCULARS TO PROP UP OCCASION NO GOLDEN MEAN TO GUIDE THE FOOTSTEPS THERE WILL BE LEVELS ON HIGH HILLS THAT APPRAISE THERE WILL BE UNCHANGING CERTAINTIES BAROMETERS THAT FOLLOW THE STAMPEDE THERE WILL BE RIGHT THERE WILL BE WRONG DROP OF A HAT AND IT’S ALREADY STARTED JUST LIKE THAT AND THE DEED IS DONE WHAT I’D GIVE FOR THAT HAT TO BE MEDICINE THE TIME IS NOW TO BE ON THE RUN THERE WILL BE SIGNPOSTS OF INDICATION SEMAPHORE GO SIGNS AND WARNINGS HAILSTONE HALOS AND COUNTRY BLUES WAILINGS THERE WILL BE STRAINS THAT BREAK OUT OF STRAIGHT TIME THAT PAVE WITH GRACE DIFFERENT ROADS TO THE SAME PLACE NO CONSEQUENCE TO REPAY WHAT HAS BEEN GIVEN THERE WILL BE LAYERS OF MEANS TO AN END DRAWN OUT DAYS BEFORE RESOLUTION DREGS WILL RAIN DOWN FROM ALL DIRECTIONS THERE WILL BE RIGHT THERE WILL BE WRONG DROP OF A HAT AND IT’S ALREADY STARTED JUST LIKE THAT AND THE DEED IS DONE WHAT I’D GIVE FOR THAT HAT TO BE MEDICINE THE TIME IS NOW TO BE ON THE RUN

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