Duane Jarvis

Sharps & Flats is a daily music review in Salon Magazine

By Meredith Ochs
Published April 21, 1998 7:00PM (EDT)

On his second solo release, "Far From Perfect," guitarist/songwriter Duane Jarvis pledges he'll be the kind of fellow a woman can count on in the song -- Mr. Dependability. "My other name is Mr. Right," he sings earnestly over a touch of twang and bubbling, blue-eyed Memphis soul. It's an appropriate oath for Jarvis to take, since roots stalwarts such as Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Dwight Yoakam and Rosie Flores have relied on him for musical support over the last decade. Jarvis may have made a name for himself adding the pure ring of glorious, understated licks to their songs, but on "Far From Perfect," he also reveals a knack for transforming his sound into songcraft.

Co-produced by former E Street Band member Garry Tallent (who also plays bass on the record), "Far From Perfect" is such a solid slice of Americana that it almost masks Jarvis' British Invasion roots. His voice is sweetly frayed around the edges as he sings of love, driving and bars over a laid-back soul groove, but his guitar playing stretches from roadhouse riffs into Kinks and Rolling Stones territory. Both of those bands immersed themselves in country music, producing effulgent hybrid albums during the '70s, and it was through them that a young D.J. (as he is known to his friends) discovered country. Indeed, Jarvis' songs sound instantly familiar because his roots run in so many different directions.

"Far From Perfect" is such a likable record, though, because it brims with D.J.'s warm, personable character. He offers glimpses of himself as a straight-up guy, the kind of guy for whom you'd buy a beer, the kind of hitchhiker you could actually pick up, as he suggests on "Vanishing Breed." At 40, Jarvis has seen enough of life to render him cynical, but his songs are ultimately optimistic and wry (especially the tremendously funny "A Girl That's Hip," co-written with former Blue Chieftan Tim Carroll, which sets his romantic search against the distinct riff from the Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction"). If Jarvis is part of a vanishing breed, it's indicative of the inhospitable times in which we live. But it's no reflection on his tremendous talent. "Far From Perfect" is like the America you drive across country hoping to find, away from the highway strip malls and bad radio stations -- where beautiful, old buildings stand proud, and music that rings true is still being made.

Meredith Ochs

Meredith Ochs is a writer in New York.

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