ThirdShiftGrottoSlack is the far-out title of Jay Farrar's second and most recent solo release. It's not exactly a name that rolls effortlessly off the tongue. But there is plenty of logic, as well as fetching music, behind this quirky moniker.
"Third shift is sort of a reference to the fact that we recorded the songs from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.," Farrar said prior to the five-song EP's release last August. "Grotto: It was always dark and the studio was kind of a cave. It was quiet and calm at that hour. And the slack key is the reference to alternate tunings that we used."
The tracks on ThirdShiftGrottoSlack were actually recorded during the sessions that produced Farrar's first solo album, 2001's Sebastopol. Instead of creating an epic album, Farrar decided to save some of the numbers for the subsequent EP.
Fans of Farrar's previous work with the alternative country bands Uncle Tupelo (which he co-founded with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy in 1987) and Son Volt will most likely find plenty to celebrate with his solo work. Many of the songs from the Sebastopol sessions rock in a rootsy kind of way, but atmospheric organ swells have replaced pedal-steel pickings and the alterative tunings bring a new character to his melodic songs.
The Belleville, IL. native's two solo discs allowed him to stretch his artistic legs with different musicians, including Gillian Welch, The Flaming Lips keyboardist Steve Drozd and others. A new father, Farrar also wanted to spend more time at home, which the solo projects allowed him to do.
Son Volt isn't dead. It's just taking a nap, according to Farrar. He's hinted recently that some of the new songs he's writing seem more suited to Son Volt, which is more or less a solo vehicle for Farrar, considering he is the band's songwriter and vocalist. But Farrar says there were significant differences between recording his solo material and the songs he had done previously with Son Volt.
"It was just a revolving door of musicians coming in and out," Farrar says of the Sebastopol sessions. "And they weren't really there at the same time. It was more of a building block process, which was different than some of the previous recordings I made with Son Volt, where the band was all there trying to get everything down live."