Okemah and the Melody of Riot
It’s hard to imagine Son Volt’s music existing outside of an autumn context. There’s something innately amber-hued in the band’s ramshackle rhythms and fiery barn-burners. Even after neglecting the moniker for six years to explore less traditional territory as a solo artist, Jay Farrar resurrected Son Volt — albeit with an entirely different backing band — to add another entry in the band’s back catalog. Okemah and the Melody of Riot has a different feel to it than previous Son Volt releases. Time and distance were bound to take its toll, and this time around Farrar’s world-weary tales stay closer to simple, quiet arrangements than the stormy swagger of the past. It suits Farrar’s maturation as a songwriter, but the empty spaces are aching for an incendiary track like “Catching On” or “Caryatid Easy.”
This disc is Farrar’s first overtly political album. Where political and social issues bubbled beneath the surface of Uncle Tupelo’s cover selections, “Jet Pilot,” “Endless War” and “Bandages & Scars” leave no doubt about what’s on Farrar’s mind. While UT’s venomous version of the Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You” betrayed the anger of youth, these songs plead for a resolution on a rational level.
On the flipside of the dual disc is a DVD of supplemental material, including the entire album with printed lyrics and a 30-minute “making of” documentary. The doc, while light on substance, does provide the historically press-shy Farrar with a chance to more fully explain the inspiration behind his songs. Live footage is interspersed throughout, including the non-album track “Joe Citizen Blues.” The season to fully experience this album might have passed, but these songs are likely to sustain their power for many autumns to come.
Transmit Sound: www.transmitsound.com