Son Volt "Honky Tonk"

Jay Farrar and Son Volt create another country music influenced album.

 Old music doesn’t die; it gets resurrected and reconstructed by a new generation of musicians. Young audiences, eager for the latest avenues of expression, gravitate toward genuine sounds that seem novel when taken out of the context of music history. If you only recently stumbled upon the twang and strum, the dusty vocals, and the portraiture of American identity engraved into the music of Son Volt, it might feel like a new approach to indie rock. However, the music created by Jay Farrar has a deep and varied history as indicated by the title of his new release, Honky Tonk.

 Farrar began his career as a founding member of the ‘90s Americana rock band Uncle Tupelo. Another founding member, Jeff Tweedy, went on to form Wilco. While his musical vision broadened out to encompass cutting-edge rock and pop, Farrar’s direction dug down deeper into the roots of folk and country music. Honky Tonk offers songs that sound like musical dust devils spinning out on the horizon until they dissipate, folding back into the landscape that made them. Its tales could be chapters from Zane Gray novels, its characters the subjects of country ballads that whine from juke boxes in rural bars.

 Farrar picks up where he left off on his last Son Volt album 2009’s American Central Dust.Diving head long into the genres that brought us Woody Guthrie, The Carter Family, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, and Loretta Lynn, Farrar brings us the American experience from the point of view of the unsung hero. He tips his hat to Kitty Wells on “Seawalls” singing of the honky tonk angels who still walk the towns of Kingman, Arizona, and Charleston, West Virginia.  Honky Tonk hums with pedal steel, fiddles, acoustic guitar, and the occasional organ interlude. Waltzes and mid-tempo ballads populate the release. Anchoring the recording is Farrar’s unadulterated vocals; his delivery is matter of fact.  There is an emotional weight in these songs but, like the people they are about, they don’t make a point of drawing attention to themselves. You get the messages, they seem to say. Make of it what you will.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)