Published Jul 01, 2004Those that ventured down to the royal music bar on Toronto's Bloor Street strip on June 17 were rewarded with an evening of acoustic bliss. Jay Farrar - the ex-Uncle Tupelo front-man, Son Volt founder and wandering whisperer of all things alt-country - sauntered into town with the Blood Oranges' Mark Spencer and treated a sold-out crowd to more than an hour of heartfelt Americana. Opener Shannon Lyon - Canada's own talented troubadour - mellowed the crowd, setting the evening's tone with a tight set of songs from his last few releases. A late addition to the bill, Lyon joked that he had bought a ticket for the show before he "got the call." The well-travelled Kitchener-Waterloo native's timbre and emotive voice were as unwavering as ever as he tested out a few new songs, showing that his muse continues to find new inspiration. The soft-spoken Farrar took the stage sporting an untucked dress shirt and faded jeans. The sound was intimate and the songs tight, with Spencer dividing his duties between a Fender Telecaster and lap steel guitar, all the while adding crisp harmony throughout. Farrar was touring in support of his latest live disc, Stone, Steel & Bright Lights, which was released in early June. The hypnotic "Voodoo Candle" and the sorrowful, spacey-ballad "Barstow," both from Sebastopol (2002), were two of the many highlights. The first encore featured a solo Jay digging into the Son Volt catalogue and playing a riveting stripped-down acoustic version of "Tear Stained Eye," from Trace, that featured some killer harmonica. This was followed by a new song, the political "Doesn't Have to Be This Way," and "Windfall," another Son Volt classic. Farrar's set came to a close with a cover of the Indian-flavoured George Harrison song "Love You To," from the Beatles' seminal Revolver. This finale turned into a ten-minute-plus exercise in Middle Eastern scales when Spencer and Farrar had an acoustic guitar duel, with Spencer the clear winner as his fingers frenetically flew up and down the fret board, showing his technical prowess. When the house lights went on, all shuffled out to the street with smiles and dreams of the next time this brilliant duo trek into town.