Curt Worden’s documentary One Fast Move Or I’m Gone examines the period of Jack Kerouac’s life when he retreated from the public eye and tried to quit drinking—a period he wrote about in his 1962 novel Big Sur. For the movie’s soundtrack, Kerouac’s nephew Jim Sampas asked rootsy singer-songwriter Jay Farrar to take the author’s own words and compose some songs around them, to be sung by an assortment of guest vocalists. But the initial pairing of Farrar with dreamy-voiced Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard proved so fruitful that the two men recorded the whole album together.
It’s an odd pairing, to be sure. When Farrar sings—as he does on about half of One Fast Move—the songs sound about as Farrar fans would expect, relying on simple structures and a low, bluesy rumble. When Gibbard sings, the songs have a more lilting quality, but Gibbard doesn’t transform Farrar’s work in any substantive way. If anything, Gibbard sounds far too earthbound. Thematically, though, this combination makes a weird kind of sense. When the duo rambles through catchy numbers like “California Zephyr,” “These Roads Don’t Move,” and the title track, a sense of hope and possibility pervades. But the standard Farrar style keeps dragging the mood back down, like a shot of whiskey calling out to a recovering alcoholic.