From the bustling streets of NYC in 1993 to the somber realities of 2023, Ned Farr & The Good Red Road have traveled a vast musical journey. Their fourth album, “THE MASTER PLAN,” encapsulates a pilgrimage through a global pandemic, distilling experiences from those isolating years into a poignant Americana tapestry.
With Ned Farr leading the project, one might have expected a cinematic quality given his long, lauded history in the film industry. And, true to form, this album plays out like an intimate indie film where folk melodies meet alt-country twang under the warm embrace of Americana. The detailed, narrative style of songwriting present on this album is a testament to Farr’s ability to craft stories, whether through visuals or, in this case, soundscapes.
Track opener “The Master Plan” sets the scene, drawing listeners into a world of uncertainty and resilience. There’s a potent atmosphere, with hints of what’s to come, musically and thematically. The shortest track, “The Captain Cries,” at just under a minute, serves as a somber interlude, reminiscent of an old ship captain’s lament echoing over an empty sea.
It’s hard to deny the palpable emotions and personal narrative throughout, reflecting the turmoil of recent years. “Hard Love” and “A Picture of the Sun” delve deep into relationships strained by the distance and stress of the pandemic era. They’re more than just songs; they’re diary entries set to melody. Cenovia Cummins’ virtuoso strings are prominent on “She Just Goes”, and she delivers a blazing violin solo in “Bulls”, highlighting her extensive prowess in both the classical and pop domains.
The soul of this album truly lies in its exceptional band members. With Jon Ossman’s seasoned bass lines providing a sturdy foundation, listeners get a taste of his illustrious musical past with icons like Chris Botti and Paula Cole. Jim Olbrys, with his Berkeley schooling, lends intricate guitar work that’s both emotive and technically splendid, weaving seamlessly with the cello tones of Juilliard-trained Evan Richey. And Joe Casalino’s drumming is precise yet impassioned, reminiscent of a teacher guiding his students with care.
Tracks like “Summer Break” and “Bulls” lean into the alt-country side, infusing an earthy grit to the mix. The former track, perhaps ironically named, suggests the transient nature of respite in these trying times, while the latter feels grounded, sturdy, and perhaps a bit defiant. “She Just Goes” and “Get Up” embody the ethos of moving forward no matter the odds, both thematically aligned with the broader album narrative.
“Bury the Stone” and “The Gift” round off the album beautifully, capturing the essence of remembrance and forward motion. They feel like closing chapters in this intricate musical novel, echoing themes of recovery, rebirth, and the determination to forge ahead.
This album is not simply a collection of songs; it’s a vessel carrying stories of pain, love, loss, and ultimately, hope. The craftsmanship is exceptional, from the instrumentals to the songwriting, reflecting the talent and experience of every band member. As the world tries to find its footing post-pandemic, “THE MASTER PLAN” serves as a poignant reminder of the power of music to capture, console, and inspire during even the darkest of times.
For those familiar with the band’s evolution, it’s hard not to reminisce about their pivotal track, “The Good Red Road.” This song isn’t just a hallmark in their musical odyssey but also the very inspiration behind the band’s name, setting a defining tone for their journey. From then to now, the evolution is evident, and Ned Farr & The Good Red Road continue to carve their unique niche in the vast world of Americana.
In conclusion, “THE MASTER PLAN” is a reflective, beautifully orchestrated homage to the human spirit. It’s not just about survival but about finding beauty amid chaos, hope amid despair. Here’s to the resilience of Ned Farr & The Good Red Road, who, despite the challenges, delivered possibly their best work yet.