Home > Music Reviews > Jay Ferrar and Ben Gibbard: One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur

Jay Ferrar and Ben Gibbard: One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur

November 5, 2009


One of the wonderful things about great music is the ability to evoke imagery, taking the listener back in time to a simpler era that exists only in history books, novels or the warm memories embedded in someone with a million stories to tell.

Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt guitarist, Jay Ferrar, and Death Cab for Cutie lead singer, Ben Gibbard, have created a landscape that recreates a moment in time. One listen and you can see a Mark Twain-style era; all you have are  the clothes on your back, all of your possessions inside of a kerchief tied to a stick, a dollar in your pocket and a sense of adventure worth a thousand times more. Boxcars and your feet are the only modes of transportation, rolling hills are the views out your window.

This is America–and you have all the freedom you’ll ever need to discover it.

You don’t need to be a Jack Kerouac fan or even a literary type to appreciate Jay Ferrar’s and Ben Gibbard’s  soundtrack to the movie One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur.  The lead track, “California Zephyr,” starts us on a journey through a purely American landscape, traversing from New York to San Francisco. Using lyrics taken from Kerouac’s “Big Sur” and an alt-country sensibility, Ferrar and Gibbard take us cross country with a sound that could easily accompany any John Steinbach novel. Each artist takes on six songs,  and while none of the 12 slow to mid-tempo tracks go far past the three minute mark, each make the point quickly and then on to the next,  as if referencing the countryside going by in a blur.

From the reflective sounds of “Low Life Kingdom” with it’s dream-like pedal steel to the nighttime bluesy aura of “Breathe Our Iodine” to the arrival in “Big Sur,” Ferrar and Gibbard have crafted a disc filled with sounds to match the poetry contained within Kerouac’s words.

The closing track, “San Francisco,” ends the disc with a clever enough nod to the Beatnik Generation, sounding much like the coffee houses during the days of Ginsberg, Kesey, and . . . yes. . . Kerouac.

There’s no filler to be found here. Every song has been made to count, played with passion and feeling; both men having gotten inside of Jack Kerouac’s words and with a maturity that belies their years.

“One Fast Move. . . ” is a brilliant piece of work. While at times sparse in instrumentation, there’s beautiful artistry contained within the music and words.

It’s unfortunate that Bruce Springsteen’s and U2’s releases will be far more remembered than this one (and I did love both). This soundtrack will fly under the radar. I’m sure Ferrar and Gibbard don’t mind, but to me that’s a shame. As good as those releases are, this one is heads above them–and the best I’ve heard this year.

Please support this work and purchase the CD or album, if you enjoy the music even half as much as I have.


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