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Gob Iron is a collaboration between two of the more forward-thinking figures in the alt-country movement, Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt founder Jay Farrar, and Anders Parker of Varnaline. With a similar interest in atmospheric guitar-based music and songs that embraces the lesson of folk and country while staking out new sonic territory at the same time, Farrar and Parker would seem to be kindred spirits, and the two men's creative paths first crossed when Parker opened an acoustic tour for Farrar in 2001. The two musicians stayed in touch, and Farrar lent his guitar work to Parker's 2004 solo album Tell It to the Dust, as well as Parker's 2005 EP The Wounded Astronaut. In the fall of 2004, Farrar approached Parker about contributing to the first album from his new edition of Son Volt, Okemah and the Melody of Riot; while Parker ultimately didn't appear on the album, during pre-production the two recorded a handful of idiosyncratic interpretations of traditional folk tunes, with the two musicians often reworking the lyrics or melodies to reflect their own musical vision, and each tackling a number of different instruments in the studio. In 2006, Farrar and Parker returned to their folk song project, which they dubbed Gob Iron, after a British slang name for a harmonica. The debut Gob Iron album, Death Songs for the Living, was drawn primarily from the material Farrar and Parker recorded in 2004; it was released on Halloween 2006, with the duo setting out on a tour to support the record.