Jay Farrar Sebastopol

With Son Volt seemingly on a permanent hiatus, Sebastopol marks Farrar's first solo project, and it's clear from the sounds of it that he's wanted to spread his wings for some time. Relying heavily of Steven Drozd (of the Flaming Lips) to provide everything from drums to a wide range of keyboards, the songs stay true to Farrar's trademark neo-Appalachia but pulsate with an entirely new energy. Each track stands out with its own personality, largely thanks to Drozd's work, but also to guest appearances by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings on the ominous waltz "Barstow," and slide guitarist Kelly Joe Phelps on the Americana reference-laden "Outside The Door." Farrar's voice remains a strangely compelling thing, and his ever-ambiguous lyrics never fail to paint a picture of a time and place you somehow always feel thankful to not be living in. But then, maybe you are. As the closing track "Vitamins" surmises, "You're really not mad at anyone, you're just mad at the world." As long as Farrar keeps making records this good, I'll be happy. (Artemis)