It’s appropriate that the gentlemen of The Far West all hail from different corners of the country because the sound they all make together represents a hearty scope of the land’s musical heritage. With members emanating from Chicago, Texas, upstate New York, and Los Angeles, the five-member band can certainly pass as an act that comes straight out of the honky-tonk heart of Bakersfield or the rustic pastures of Woodstock. An unapologetic, no-bones-about-it Americana act, the band wears its’ influences high and heavy throughout the course of their second proper LP, the 13-track release Any Day Now. Formed in 2010 around a shared appreciation of Gram, Uncle Tupelo, and The Band, The Far West bang out a sharp blend of country rock that comes straight from the No Depression playbook that was all the rage in the ‘90’s and early 2000’s, but seems to have slipped from the musical map in recent years.
With vocal shades reminiscent of John Prine, vocalist Lee Briante anchors the album’s narratives and tells tales of distressed Hollywood fame seekers (album-opener “On The Road”), quirky folk-artists (the shuffling New Orleans groover “Leonard”), and reluctant travellers (the alt-country homage “Wichita”). The music bounces around and runs the spectrum from two-step country shuffle to bar-band grit to mid-tempo rollers augmented by organ fills and soulful horn inflections. It’s a breezy sound expertly played by an assemblage of musicians that sound as if they’ve been spending long nights plying away and honing their chops in a vacant garage or sparsely attended back room bar far off in the hills. And wouldn’t you know it, the band does indeed use similar spaces for their production, as their debut was recorded a few years back in front of live American Legion Post audiences, and this album was put to tape on the floors of a vintage hot rod repair shop deep in the industrial bowels of Lake Forest, California.
They’ve polished the sound a bit this time around and have softened some of the gruffer edges that defined their self-titled debut. While this change undoubtedly reflects the musical growth and maturation the band has achieved over the ensuing years, it also occasionally brings the unfortunate slope away from the raucous Flying Burritos vibes and instead veers into some Lumineers-like vapidity that has been the sound of choice for a lot of guitar picking troubadours of late. Sometimes, it’s nice to stick to the wheelhouse, which in The Far West’s case is that refreshing up-tempo “boom chucka chucka boom” sound that too many like-minded bands have been shying away from. For a band so steeped in tradition and homage, they work best putting their spin on the past classics and less so when echoing more recent trends.
Regardless, these fellas get points for rocking the Americana spirit and carrying on the country-rock ethos. Hopefully, Any Day Now will bring The Far West a wider audience and greater venues where they can continue to craft their sound and follow the whims of their muse past their new California base and back out across this vast land of which they sing so often.