Gob Iron Death Songs for the Living

Jay Farrar has always spoken highly of former Varnaline front-man Anders Parker, so it’s no surprise to see them team up for this project that finds the pair venturing into the fog of some of America’s most darkly durable folk tunes. Among these are Stephen Foster’s "Hard Times,” A.P. Carter’s "East Virginia Blues” and "Hills of Mexico,” which provided the blueprint for Woody Guthrie’s "Buffalo Skinners.” For most of the album, things are stripped down to mainly acoustic instruments, although a home recording vibe dominates, especially in Parker’s rudimentary drumming. Still, it suits the material well, especially considering that both of their naturally dour demeanours are all that is really needed to get to the heart of these songs. Farrar even manages to seamlessly slip in a couple of originals, showing how much of this music he has absorbed. There probably aren’t many other better caretakers of the tradition right now than Farrar, so for that reason alone, Death Songs for the Living is worth hearing. But the real beauty is how both Farrar and Parker make these songs sound vital at this moment, as they should be. (Transmit Sounds/Legacy)