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All Music Guide:
Gob Iron is a collaboration between two of the more forward-thinking figures in the alt-country movement, Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt founder Jay Farrar, and Anders Parker of Varnaline. With a similar interest in atmospheric guitar-based music and songs that embraces the lesson of folk and country while staking out new sonic territory at the same time, Farrar and Parker would seem to be kindred spirits, and the two men's creative paths first crossed when Parker opened an acoustic tour for Farrar in 2001. The two musicians stayed in touch, and Farrar lent his guitar work to Parker's 2004 solo album Tell It to the Dust, as well as Parker's 2005 EP The Wounded Astronaut. In the fall of 2004, Farrar approached Parker about contributing to the first album from his new edition of Son Volt, Okemah and the Melody of Riot; while Parker ultimately didn't appear on the album, during pre-production the two recorded a handful of idiosyncratic interpretations of traditional folk tunes, with the two musicians often reworking the lyrics or melodies to reflect their own musical vision, and each tackling a number of different instruments in the studio. In 2006, Farrar and Parker returned to their folk song project, which they dubbed Gob Iron, after a British slang name for a harmonica. The debut Gob Iron album, Death Songs for the Living, was drawn primarily from the material Farrar and Parker recorded in 2004; it was released on Halloween 2006, with the duo setting out on a tour to support the record.
Gob Iron is an American musical group officially formed in 2006. It consists of Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt's Jay Farrar and Varnaline's Anders Parker. Their debut album, Death Songs For The Living was released on October 31, 2006 by Transmit Sound/Legacy Recordings. Their name comes from a British slang term for a harmonica.
The songs that would become Death Songs For The Living were recorded spontaneously during a five-day period in autumn of 2004 in Farrar's studio in St. Louis. Farrar had originally intended to record a new Son Volt album, but that project was postponed in favor of these songs.
The songs played, with one exception of a Farrar original, were reworked versions of traditional folk songs by artists such as Rev. J. M. Gates, Stephen Foster and the Stanley Brothers. Lyrics and melodies have been altered, some almost entirely rewritten through what is sometimes referred to as the "folk process". While Farrar and Parker chose the songs on the fly, it was later found that death was a common theme running through; hence the title, Death Songs For The Living. The songs are punctuated by nine short instrumentals, one between every pair of songs.
Allmusic praised Death Songs For The Living as Farrar's best effort since Son Volt's 1995 Trace. The album is described as "strong, deeply felt, and speaks of a genuine commitment to keeping the folk tradition alive through a willingness to challenge its structures".