Music Reviews
Son Volt

Son Volt

Honky Tonk


There’s a world of wisdom inside a fiddle tune.      ~ “Down the Highway”

Tell it, Jay Farrar. For Son Volt’s seventh album, Farrar has embraced the sound of such country legends as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and the other luminaries of the “Bakersfield Sound,” and in doing so, has created the band’s best album since its debut Trace in 1995. Farrar has always been a cryptic songwriter, but on Honky Tonk he speaks of love and life in plain words, the kind you’d hear in a honky tonk on a Saturday night. Backed by an expanded version of Son Volt, he sounds at home surrounded by the twin fiddles of Gary Hunt and Justin Branum and the sweet sound of Brad Sarno’s pedal steel adds icing to an already rich cake of sounds.

Son Volt, which began when Farrar split from Uncle Tupelo and Jeff Tweedy, was a leading light in the “alt-country” movement of the ’90s until Farrar put the band in hiatus in 1999. Once reformed, the band eschewed the harder sound of Trace and 1997’s Straightaways for a more organic, acoustic vibe, and it sounds completely natural and unforced. You could hear Buck Owens or Winn Stewart singing “Tears of Change” or “Angel of the Blues,” and I suspect Jay Farrar would consider it the ultimate compliment.

It’s been a long road since Jay Farrar began his life in music with The Plebes (a high school band with Tweedy) in the early ’80s, and with Honky Tonk, he’s come full circle, looking to the future with the sounds of the past. As he sings in “Seawall” – Do honky tonk angels still walk this ground? Thankfully, for some of us, they certainly do.

Son Volt:

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