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Austin Farrell Revels In

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Austin Farrell.
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Austin Farrell.
An Easily Labeled, White-Boy Acoustic-Reggae Artist Proves Through His New Album That Labels Don’t Mean Very Much


By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

July 25, 2012 — Oregon-based musician and environmental advocate Austin Farrell brings Pacific Coast mellow on his debut album, A Call to Conversation, and calls all of his listeners to do their part to make a the world a healthier, happier place.

Not to sound cliché, but the album is the epitome of the melodious hippie culture for which Oregon is known. With his repetitive, bubbly riffs, and reliance on a variety of percussion, Farrell obviously owes debts to white-boy-acoustic-reggae-king Jack Johnson and more traditional reggae artists like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

Farrell hits this tone with "Irie Nation." The song is layered in a very traditional reggae sound with a catchy rhythm and several sing-along moments. The message, which is essentially to accept yourself and enjoy life, is also pretty traditional but still worth looking into.

The album, despite its generally mellow sound, carries a heavy message. It is not simply beckoning for everyone to be friends and pass a blunt. Rather, A Call to Conversation is mapping an increasingly complex path towards happiness, sustainability and peace. Farrell takes common reggae themes of friendship, nature, and peace and adds his own perspective to them.

On "A Stranger's Tears," one of the more traditional reggae tracks on the album, Farrell tackles the issue of finding happiness without alienating the outside world. Instead of isolating yourself with a few close friends who share your values, Farrell's asks us to keep an open mind in order to stave off hatred and help others achieve contentment.

"And it makes me sad to know that somebody hates me because I am a different religion/ And it makes me sad to know that somebody want me dead because I am free."

But the album is not as nearly as predictable as some of the other acoustic reggae fare out there today. Farrell avoids sounding too repetitive by intertwining aspects of classical, southern and pop music into the album.

"Kings" is one example. The song, while still containing some definite reggae tropes, manages to change the pace of the album by mixing in some other musical genres.  The opening riff is sparse in sound and complex in texture, something not often seen within the simple repetitiveness most reggae is known for.

The intro sets up the first half of the song, which is slow and soft. Farrell's voice sounds a less bass-driven and more intimate here and adds a bit of gravitas to the track, which existentially ponders the virtues of sadness and suffering.

But music is not the end game for Farrell. On the upcoming Back to the Roots Tour 2012, the young musician will also be speaking about composting, one of his passions.

Composting, or recycling waste food and organic matter into compost to increase the nutrient levels of soil, is a green practice that helps eliminate waste and improve plant growth and soil quality.

In order to support this cause, Farrell will be playing some of his tour dates at vineyards and other venues that could benefit from composting. In addition to playing music, Farrell will hold a talk where the musician, participants and fans can communicate openly about composting and other sustainability initiatives.
Farrell will also be putting some media together on the tour along with producer and videographer Nic Adenau of illComm Studios.

The tour, while still functioning as a vehicle to promote Farrell's music, will also operate as an open forum to bring people together and increase the dialogue about sustainability, Farrell said in an interview with Portland's 101.9 KINK FM in Portland.

The tour kicked off at The Winery SF in San Francisco on July 22.

Some the unique venues Farrell will hit on the tour include Settembre Cellars in Boulder, Colo., on Aug. 9, Sapolil Cellars in Walla Walla, Wash., on Aug. 18, and the Astoria Hempfest in Astoria, Ore., on Aug. 26.

Farrell will be performing in Phoenix on Aug. 4 at Fiddler's Dream Coffee House, 1702 E. Glendale Ave. While a coffee house is a more traditional setting than a vineyard, I am sure Farrell will be more than willing to discuss his views on composting and green living over an iced chai instead of a pinot noir.

Wayne Schutsky is a freelance writer living in Phoenix. Follow him @TheManofLetters.
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