Friday, April 7, 2017

Son Volt at the Bowery Ballroom

Chris Frame and Jay Farrar
Jay Farrar learned to play the guitar as a 12 year old in Belleville, Illinois, and in high school teamed with Jeff Tweedy to form a garage rock band called the Primitives. The lead singer quit to attend college, Farrar and Tweedy recruited drummer Mike Heidorn , and the trio began incorporating the country music influence of their youth along with some traditional folk sounds; they renamed the band Uncle Tupelo in 1987 and grew into a quintet. Relationships soured and Farrar quit in 1994 and reunited with Heidorn to form Son Volt, leaving the remaining Uncle Tupelo musicians to form Wilco. Son Volt recorded three albums, then went on hiatus in 1999. Farrar launched a solo career in 2001, then reformed the Son Volt brand in 2005 with new personnel. Son Volt presently consists of Farrar (vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano), Chris Frame (guitar), Mark Spencer (keyboards, steel guitar), Andrew Duplantis (bass) and Mark Patterson (drums). Son Volt released its eighth and most recent album, Notes of Blue, on February 17, 2017. The band in based out of St. Louis, Missouri.

While Wilco continually expands its soundscape, Son Volt took the opposite approach at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, holding fast to the alt-country genre it helped to invent, adding only a dash of blues. Onstage, Farrar exhibited virtually no personality, rarely speaking or otherwise acknowledging the audience or his band mates and nearly always singing with his eyes shut tightly. He cranked out some impressive guitar solos and sang with a rugged, weathered, and yet durable voice that at its most grooving points sounded like it fell somewhere between Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young and possibly Creedence Clearwater Revival. Son Volt's identity was found in the music, however, with Son Volt rocking an unmistakable country twang and a blues swing, all hinged on an Americana-roots skeleton. The set emphasized the new album, but as the band dug deep into its repertoire, it wound up performing most of its debut album as well. The band cranked out 26 songs in rapid fashion, even coming back out for encores of three Uncle Tupelo songs and a cover of a Rolling Stones song.

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