Ned Farr & The Good Red Road – ‘The Master Plan’

Jangly guitars, flourishing strings, and bright piano infusions enamor throughout The Master Plan. The album comes via Ned Farr & The Good Red Road, who formed in 1992 in NYC. Their shrewd lyricism also stands out, with resonating allegories and themes. The band’s fourth full-length, The Master Plan comes after three years in the making, weathering the pandemic and collaborating remotely. The result shines with its infectious rock, power-pop, and folk stylings.

The album’s sequencing is smoothly compelling, traversing tactfully into each track. Although just a minute-long interlude, “The Captain Cries” stirs in its expanse from morose-sounding strings into gradual vibrancy; plucky guitars and flourishing strings set up serenely into the subsequent “Hard Love,” whose initial calming acoustics follow with seamless cohesion. The “nightfall, another twilight gone,” soundscape exudes a contemplative pull, with added effervescence in the second-half twangs and culminating anthemic vocals.

A touching exploration of memory and its allegorical roles, “Memory Is a Boat at Sea” begins poignantly with a series of “remember when?” beginnings — then remarking that those two words are “like two best friends in any language.” The jangly guitar-driven drive to the title-touting deepness proves especially captivating, as does the ghostly wordless vocal accompaniments past the two-minute turn, reminding fondly of Deacon Blue.

Versatile hooks arise with sophisti-pop appeal on “Bulls,” venturing from warm twangy rock into a “two bulls in a china shop,” hook that resonates, reminiscent there of Steely Dan in its tastefully melodic delivery. Frolicking strings follow into the “right back here where we started,” vocal outpouring. The ’80s rock flair on “Bulls” is confidently infectious, and builds effortlessly into the jangly, glistening energy of “She Just Goes,” touting a nostalgic power-pop spirit.

Another highlight, “Get Up” rouses in its organ-laden shimmering, soulful vocal responses, and suave guitar lines. As its title would suggest, “Get Up” succeeds with its energetic, head-nodding charisma — driving into the “can you fall if you never let go?” hook, diversifying enjoyably with its more heady briefness. The “everything must fall,” conclusion invigorates with its soaring affirmations.

The Master Plan is a consistently melodic success from Ned Farr & The Good Red Road, who retain an audible chemistry after over 30 years of making music together. From rousing rockers like “Get Up” to conscious folk builds like “Bury the Stone,” The Master Plan engages with its strong songwriting.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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