Death Songs for the Living
It seems natural that Gob Iron, the new side project from Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt founder Jay Farrar and Varnaline multi- instrumentalist Anders Parker, ever happened in the first place. Both are prominent alt-country musicians, versed in the folkier, melancholic side of country, who got their rise back in the '90s with their respective bands before going solo. The pair hooked up in the beginning of this decade, when a touring Farrar asked Parker to open, and Farrar, in return, contributed guitar parts to two Parker solo albums in 2004–2005, before they began toying with the idea of Gob Iron (British slang for a harmonica). Two years later, it's obvious they are a perfect match (sorry, Tweedy, it was never meant to be).
On Death Songs for the Living, both songwriters rearranged, and put their own familiar twist on 10 classic folk standards, with nine original, albeit brief, acoustic instrumentals between the songs. Obviously, death is a prevalent theme of the album, so the mournful woe of Farrar's wavering voice on "Death Is Only a Dream" and "Nicotine Blues" is telling, especially when he sings "that we're living, just to die." "Hills of Mexico" sounds strikingly similar to Beck's "Mexico," both in the verse and in the chorus, while "Death's Black Train" is a perfect introduction to a complete album that digs deep into the roots of classic Americana but doesn't bury itself in too much twang, or pretentiousness. TRAVIS RITTER
Gob Iron play the Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 206-789-3599, www.tractortavern.citysearch.com. $16. 9 p.m. Sat., Dec. 2.
Whether you believe the Game's beef with Dr. Dre is real or that his lyrical digs are just another PR stunt meant to cover up Dre's uncredited contributions, the Game's new disc is still a better-than-expected follow-up to his multiplatinum debut. Of course, it's not a classic, as the Game (aka Jayceon Taylor) claims, but most of the guest producers, including Scott Storch and will.i.am, wisely play to his West Coast base, even when sampling East Coast greats like Schoolly D and De La Soul. And the Game shows improvement as a lyricist, flashing a previously unseen wit: "All these new video bitches try to be Melyssa Ford, but they don't know Melyssa Ford drive a Honda Accord." DAN LEROY