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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 15:01 GMT
Farrar abandons 'alt country'
Jay Farrar
Farrar's two bands have been the foundations of alt country
Jay Farrar - the man credited with starting the Alternative Country genre - produces an experimental album which abandons the sound he is credited with creating.

Farrar is seen as the godfather of alt country - otherwise known as Americana - after he formed Uncle Tupelo in the early 1980s.

Uncle Tupelo became the seminal alt country band, giving influence to a diverse range of artists including Kurt Cobain and Travis.

But Terroir Blues, the latest album by Farrar - now a solo artist - is a highly experimental work. It is an ambitious 23-track CD featuring backwards-played tape and five different "Space Junk" tracks - which has more in common with the Beatles' Revolver than alt country.

"One of the first records I bought as a kid was Revolver - it has backwards noises on it," Farrar told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme.

"I always wanted to experiment a bit with that, and finally had the chance to do it this time around."


Uncle Tupelo are seen as the founders of alt country after they dared to do their own take on the genre - outside the mainstream with little or no commercial radio play. Many credit the band with reawakening interest in American and roots music.

They produced a series of acclaimed albums that re-ignited the roots tradition, with intelligent, literate rock music which plaudits felt snatched country back from the jaws of the Nashville music machine.

After leaving Uncle Tupelo, Farrar went on to form another seminal alt country act, Son Volt, while the remaining members formed Wilco.

Ironically, Farrar is not keen on being described as alt country, and is reluctant to accept his part in its creation.

Jay Farrar
The most surprising thing is that alt country was perceived as a movement - in actuality, I don't know if it ever was
Jay Farrar
"I don't like to think in the terms of deliberately doing it, but I guess that certainly, that sort of superficial term doesn't really describe all of what I do," Farrar said.

"I just try to follow inspiration wherever it's coming from.

"This is the direction it went in this time round."

Alt country now encompasses everything from country-tinged indie rock - like Steve Earl and Wilco - to the eclectic Texas stars like Lyle Lovett and Butch Hancock.

Farrar added that the alt country tag was a "mixed blessing" that had never adequately described the music he and other bands were creating even at the time of Uncle Tupelo.

"There were elements of country music - whether it's pedal steel guitar, or fiddle or something like that - [but] I think for the most part, that represents a period of time, where we were in our twenties, when we were acknowledging the music of our parents and coming to terms with that," he said.

"That reflected that time period, and I think subsequently we've moved on from that."

Indeed, Terroir Blues is much more reminiscent of Neil Young, and especially his famous album Tonight's The Night.

"I was going for that kind of element as well - coming off the back of the last record I did, Sebastopol, a kind of studio-orientated album, where you're just throwing a lot on the platter," Farrar explained.

"This time I wanted to it to be a bit more organic, with a band in the studio, and just trying to capture that energy."

However, the album is not totally disengaged from country.

One track, Dent County, deals with Farrar's memories of his parent's home - a place where country music was performed at the side of the road.

"I do have memories of going back there, and that was also some of the formative musical experiences of my life," Farrar recalled.

"Going to Dent County, people would just pull banjos and guitars out of their car and stop in the middle of a field in the side of the road, and have a big hoedown."

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