Chris McFarland – As if to Lay to Rest

Chris McFarland
As if to Lay to Rest

I suppose that, technically, you would classify Chris McFarland’s music as folk, but I’ve always thought his music was so much more than that. He called his brand of music on his last album, Distance for Departure, angry folk. If that was angry folk, I’d say As if to Lay to Rest is bitter folk. But despite the prominent basis of acoustic guitar and an emphasis on vocals, these songs are too intense, too powerful to just be folk.
Most of the songs on this album do include bass and drums, but the real emphasis is obviously on the powerful brand of acoustic guitar that McFarland plays and his extremely emotional voice. All music is supposed to be emotional, people say, but some songs are just so powerful that the sheer force can spellbind you. That’s the power McFarland possesses as he sings about relationships, predominantly.
“You were such a disappointment to me,” he sings on the rocking “Drive,” a powerful track that incorporates driving acoustic guitar with thick bass and drums. The focus on “One Good Thing” is solely on the guitar and vocals, presenting a more bare and starkly beautiful feel, and McFarland’s vocals really shine here as he sings, “if you need a punching bag, I don’t think I’ll volunteer. Just give me one chance to get us out of here.” The nice, light-hearted romp of “Twang” is a pleasant interlude at this point.
The best song here is the outright rocking “Sick,” a song that just blows me away every time I hear it. As McFarland sings, “Are you getting sick of me, the way I’m sick of me,” you just feel the bitterness and frustration. Very few singers possess the ability to be this powerful and this honest in one song. That’s not even to mention the fact that this song really rocks, with driving, intense acoustic guitar and powerful drumming.
“And at Once” takes on a bit more of a folk feel, a bit more quiet and centered around some nice guitar, which is even better on the succeeding “Begin with Measurements.” This song is haunting, with stark guitar and McFarland’s vocals just soaring, as he sings, “Tonight I give no quarter to the demons inside my head.” Finally, the album ends with “The Evils of a Calendar Year,” a more somber, desperate feeling song that flows into a more melodic feel that’s both moving and atmospheric, quite lovely with a kind of windy background and even some keyboards.
McFarland only pressed 150 copies of As if to Lay to Rest, with a greater pressing to be released later this summer. These 150 copies have silk-screened covers and are numbered, lending an even more precious feel to this album. But I would take McFarland’s music any way I could. This album has rarely left my car’s CD player, and I quickly came to know these emotional, moving lyrics by heart. Powerful, emotional, bitterly honest songs – you just can’t ask for anything more, and you just can’t expect it to be played any better. McFarland may be one of the definitive singer/songwriters of our generation. Make sure you know who he is.