When Jay Farrar sings, “May the wind blow your troubles away,” on ‘Windfall’, about a long-distance drive to escape one’s problems and the opening track of Son Volt’s 1995 debut album, ‘Trace’, it came across like a hopeful sentiment of looking forward for the talented songwriter following the tragic implosion of Uncle Tupelo, his first band with Jeff Tweedy. The album was Farrar’s first since the ugly dissolution of Uncle Tupelo the prior year. In addition to the ugly, personal drama, and turmoil that led to the end of the seminal-band, the release of ‘Trace’ carried with it an unmatched burden of expectations. Those expectations weighed not only on Farrar, but also on former bandmate Tweedy. Every move they made in the months following the end of Uncle Tupelo was preceded by the question, “What does the after-life following the breakup look like for both Farrar and Tweedy and how do you follow up the genius that was Uncle Tupelo?” Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Son Volt “Trace” (Warner Bros, 1995)”
Being an americana site we have to mention our own version of the Oasis vs Blur war, Son Volt vs Wilco (admittedly not quite the same war as Oasis and Blur were never in the same band together – imagine that for a second) at least once a month. My own lasting memory of seeing Jay Farrar performing solo back in Nashville many years ago was that he seemed to hate the audience almost as much as Michelle Shocked did, but not quite as much which was enough for me. Occasionally as a solo artist he releases something as good as the best Uncle Tupelo or Son Volt song, the lovely ‘Station to Station’ from 2002’s ‘Third Shift Groto Slack’ mini-album being exhibit one. It’s a difficult record to find now but do seek it out if you can.
There’s no way we could make our first trip through the alphabet without a tip of the hat to the band that some folks point to as the start of this thing we call Americana. I’m going to sidestep the industrial-strength spider web of a conversation that inevitably follows any statement to the effect that somebody did or didn’t ‘start’ a movement or a musical style. Feel free to go down that road in the comments section if you’d like. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Uncle Tupelo”
While Jay Farrar might be considered as being pretty grounded when it comes to singing about familiar folk themes he’s never been a political writer. On ‘Union’ that changes as he here turns to topical concerns, setting out what is essentially his state of the union address. ‘Union’ is not a protest album, there are no street fighting anthems here and the names of the guilty are not mentioned, but when he sings, “Proud to serve but not this president,” on ‘Reality Winner’, it’s not hard to guess his inner thoughts even though the song is ostensibly about a whistleblower jailed for leaking classified documents. Continue reading “Son Volt “Union” (Transmit Sound, 2019)”