Son Volt – [Album]

Saturday, 20 June 2009

There's something to be said for consistency. Since the split of Uncle Tupelo occurred and Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy went their separate ways fifteen years ago, Tweedy's Wilco has released a series of critically lauded records that have found that band treading consistently further from their No Depression roots into new and fascinating territory while, outside of a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses solo effort from Farrar (check out Thirdshiftgrottoslack – it's not bad), his endeavors in Son Volt have remained in line with the dusty country spaces of Tupelo and hasn't really been so exposed as Wilco has. That isn't necessarily a criticism, it's just a matter of fact and a double-edged sword particularly because when Wilco added guitarist Nels Cline four years ago, their following output immediately generated a very public and consistently more mixed reception while, slow and steady, Son Volt has simply stayed their own course and received the same gauge of commentary they always have.

That course has not changed with American Central Dust, but it's entirely possible that this album will be the one that sees Son Volt jumping forward and surpassing Wilco in the polls of popularity.

As stated, it's not as if Son Volt radically changed anything to produce American Central Dust, it just happens to be a collection of the twelve best new songs that the band has ever assembled. There's no rush to jump in or any earnest movements either; the band simply wades in with deep pocket drumming, easy, fuzzy guitars and a sighing accordion behind Farrar's lackadaisical vocals on “Dynamite” and it almost seems designed to soothe frazzled nerves as it rocks (as a chair does – no roll attached) its way into a groove. It works – for the first time, Son Volt eases in as self-assured as Springsteen – and listeners find their heads bobbing involuntarily; for no other reason than it just feels right. From there, the sweet and sliding alt-country strains continue with no gaffes and no rough or jarring moments (read: nothing faster than a country waltz), just sublime and sensual swaying through “Down To The Wire,” “Cocaine And Ashes,” “Dust Of Daylight” and “Exiles” that all leave listeners feeling warm and smiling at the vivid heartland images they conjure but, unlike the Meat Puppets, steer clear of any darkness and choose instead to dazzle those listening with pure beauty.

All of this is not to say that the easy comparison to make is with Wilco's work – at this stage of each band's development, that would be like trying to compare apples and oranges. Even so, both bands have pushed toward the same end (hence why the comparisons endure) until recently, but because Wilco always chose to creatively develop by leaps and bounds, they looked like the easy pick to come out on top. As they falter now though, Son Volt may end up proving that slow and steady can indeed win the race with American Central Dust.


Son Volt online

Son Volt myspace


“Down To The Wire” from American Central Dust by Son Volt


American Central Dust
comes out on July 7, 2009 on Rounder Records. Pre-order it here at Amazon .

Comments are closed.