When I was 18 years old and a freshman theater major at Huntingdon College, I discovered Jack Kerouac’s On The Road during the spring semester and spent the next year of my life devouring his books. First, Subterraneans then Dharma Bums, then Desolation Angels . . . Of all of Kerouac’s books, On the Road is my favorite because it changed my life, causing me to quit the theatrical backstage work that I had hoped would carry me out of my hometown and declare that I would be a writer. However, Desolation Angels is the one that I go back to and re-read like some kind of Kerouacean/Beat bible. (Of all of them Doctor Sax is my least favorite.)
So, a year or so ago, when I ran across this CD, “One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Music from Kerouac’s Big Sur” by Benjamin Gibbard and Jay Farrar, that was supposed to be songs based on the book, I had to get it. Though I wasn’t familiar with Gibbard, I’ve liked Jay Farrar for a long time through listening first to Uncle Tupelo then to Son Volt then to his solo CDs like Sebastopol. (I saw Son Volt live at Five Points South Music Hall when they were supporting the Straightaways CD, but I can’t remember the year.)
What has been funny about my experiences with “One Fast Move or I’m Gone” is that the more I listen to it, the more I like Benjamin Gibbard’s songs over Jay Farrar’s songs, which tend to be darker and more solemn in tone and typical of his style. I particularly like “California Zephyr,” “All in One,” and the CD’s title track, all of which portray the whimsy of Kerouac’s style, the brighter side that counterbalances the lonely and bitter side that Farrar’s vocals carry off. I haven’t actually dug in to figure out how much of it they wrote and how much of it comes from Kerouac’s words, but the songs are very reminiscent of Kerouac style and persona, not to mention it’s just good listening.
“One Fast Move or I’m Gone” has been my go-to music lately. I go through stages when some bit music really strikes me and I listen to it over and over. Sometimes it’s whole albums like the North Mississippi All-Stars’ “Hill Country Revue” CD recorded at the 2004 Bonnaroo show or the soundtrack to the movie “I’m Not There,” and other times it’s just one song, like the unreleased Bob Dylan song “Mississippi” or Widespread Panic’s live version of “Tall Boy” with Dottie Peoples. This Gibbard and Farrar CD has got my near-full attention right now. It’s great music.