Peter Stenshoel reviews The Farm Band

The Farm Band album cover

Kevin Ferguson

Here's my antidote to the doom and gloom scenarios swirling round us.  It's one long glorious "Om," the original primordial sound that guides and girds the universe. Used in worship, it's followed with "Shanti, Shanti, Shanti," Sanskrit for "Peace, Peace, Peace."

Consider this a way to chill and get down with good vibes. "Om" opens the album by The Farm Band, the jam band culled from members of one of the 70's more successful intentional communities, or what we used to call communes.

Still in existence today, The Farm began when its leader, Stephen Gaskin, led a caravan of sixty buses from San Francisco to settle eventually in Tennessee. Despite some rough patches in the 80s, The Farm exists to this day. Former and current Farm residents have greatly contributed to the disciplines of vegetarianism, midwifery, and sustainable farming practices. There's even a Mayan tie-in. Their charitable arm, Plenty, worked with Mayan peasants after the Earthquake of 1976, building 1200 houses, just one of many notable service works.

The Farm Band album is a sweet two-record set. It's inventive and grooving, a product of its time and testifies to how fun they must have been live. It borrows not a little from The Grateful Dead. In fact, the meditation teacher Yukio Ramana related to me how he and Stephen Gaskin were firm San Francisco Deadheads back in the days before each one's spiritual vocation fully took root.

In listening to the two and a half minute "Om," note the fascinating in-between tones known as harmonics. They are not sung as such; they are the overtones present but rarely noticed in music. You'll start noticing them at 30 seconds in.

I leave you with the weekly sign-off of KFAI's "Good n' Country" deejay, the late Johnny Fields:
"Peace and tranquility--it is the gift. Give it to others."

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