REVIEW: Justin Farren’s “Pretty Free” is Loaded With Descriptive Characters and Situational Eccentricities


Justin Farren — Pretty Free

Not much in the way of wild excitement on this set — but this is the type of work that goes well with lying down on your bedspread late in the afternoon, arms behind your head & your eyes closed to listen.

It’s a likable 11-cut CD. Clever words sewn together with basic melodies & interesting stories. Sacramento, CA singer-songwriter Justin Farren is a homegrown recording geek & he shows diversity as a multi-instrumentalist who plays his vignettes in a small recording shed in his backyard. The tunes are sublime, some upbeat, but all have a personal quality. The songs have characterization, events, places & times most can relate to.

In its gentleness, Farren conjures images with his words. “How’s Your Garden Grow” is a beautiful tune that lingers. Farren takes a simple daily moment & its little hours turn into a chapter of verse.

“Fixer Upper,” is one such ideal. Gentle, unpretentious, with the warmth & nostalgia of John Prine.

Farren’s voice isn’t powerful but it has an Arlo Guthrie persona in its storytelling nature. He writes about home, family, the past, hardships, good times, childhood days (the intense & eloquent “Mama”). He’s upbeat folky with “There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Day,” if a fiddle is added – mindful of the late John Hartford.

Farren plays (acoustic/electric guitars/keyboards/electric & upright bass/vocals), Brian Spence Rogers (drums/some bass/BV), Andre Fylling (keyboards), Anna Tivel (violin/BV), Aaron Smith (electric guitar/BV), Sam Phelps (organ), with Kerry & Amelia Farren (backing vocals).

His 4th full-length Pretty Free (Drops Oct 23rd – Bad Service Badger) is loaded with descriptive characters with situational eccentricities that make them each memorable. It’s all about the song & its story. You could compare Justin to Townes van Zandt, but Justin seldom gets as dark.

“One More Night,” is another song with a delicate story. Justin’s forte is his ability to tell an interesting tale in easy language. It’s an honest attempt to capture something listeners can relate to, can associate with. I find it hard to believe no one will find something in these songs that will resonate. At first, the city boy in me didn’t find his niche in these songs until “Two Wheel Drive & Japanese.”

Justin sings about suburban kids, diners, driving around, running red lights, all with a steady neat drumbeat: that’s my world.

Based on the PR I started out not expecting much. I was wrong. This is a competent set of riveting songs that can only get better. Don’t think demos – these are polished pieces. My only criticism: drop the foul language (“Last Year Was the Best Year”), it dilutes the composition & isn’t necessary. Not even for an effect. It’s played out verbiage.

The 42-minute CD: Produced by Brian Chris Rogers, Aaron Smith & the Farren’s is available at &

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