Self-produced album could have done with a producer
‘Coffee and Laundry’ is as the American’s say, Martin Farrell Jr’s sophomore (as the English say, second) album. Farrell has not only written all the songs and produced the album, he plays all the instruments which include electric and acoustic guitars, pedal steel, drums, piano, banjo, mandolin and harmonica – possibly even more.
Minnesotan born but now Kansas based, Farrell is best known as a record producer for Lost Cowgirl Records, a label he set-up with Kansas City based songwriter Jenna Rae but is also a session musician and has toured with the Amarugia Ridge Runners, a honky-tonk band he met in whilst living in a bus on a farm in a town called Peculiar MO!
‘Coffee And Laundry’ is made up of ten tracks none of which are called ‘Coffee And Laundry’ (that’s what Farrell’s been doing a lot of this year) but go by evocative titles such as ‘Dust Bowl 1933’, ‘Plastic Barn’ and ‘Young Werther’. They also cover a number of genres such as bluegrass, folk, Americana, country and blues. The one anomaly is ‘Silly Thoughts’ which has distinct echoes of the Mothers Of Invention which is probably deliberate as Farrell has stated he has a deep appreciation for the work of Frank Zappa whose output he studied as a young musician.
The other nine tracks have an old-timey feel about them which isn’t that surprising as Farrell has a larger collection of vintage microphones and it sounds as if he’s used some of them to record this album. Add to that Farrell’s world-weary, dust flecked vocals and at times ‘Coffee And Laundry’ sounds like it was recorded in a tiny mid-West studio back in the day. Although employing a number of genres, overall the album has a country feel to it (apart from the aforementioned ‘Silly Thoughts’) – not “new country” with its emphasis on multi-tracking and Autotuned vocals but proper old-fashioned country and western music sounding the way it used to be from the likes of George Jones and Porter Wagoner.
However, the big problem with the album is that the songs aren’t that memorable, and Farrell’s voice is just a bit dull – there’s just nothing outstanding about it. His playing is superb, and the sound production is good but that doesn’t make up for the fact that there’s nothing on the album that could make the listener want to listen to it again the second the last track ends – the mark of a special album. Talking about his first album ‘Tales From The Outer Country’, Farrell said: “Being able to produce records on my own without input from others has allowed me to create music unaffected by outside influence and provide a virtually limitless musical environment where I am the boss”. It could be that the problem with ‘Coffee And Laundry’, is that it could have done with some outside influence to make an average album, something special – after all Farrell is a record producer himself so he must think having one on an album is a good thing?