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coverpic flag US - Missouri - Full Moon 157 - 07/07/09

Son Volt
American Central Dust
Rounder Records

I was a die hard, deep hearted, dedicated fan of Uncle Tupelo when they were still operating, up until 1994. I only had a chance to see them play live once, but I remember it as if it was only yesterday. So, what do you do when the band splits and go into two different camps? I suppose that's when you find out where your heart lies. In my case, it was with Son Volt, not Wilco. It's a family thing. We don't discuss details, we just stick with our favourite uncle.

This is Son Volt's sixth studio album. I could be taken for a liar, considering that the mind and heart of the band, Jay Farrar, has released three (interesting, wonderful and exciting) albums under his own name as well. The previous Son Volt album, The Search, was sweetened up with horns and this one has more piano than usual. This does not make it a piano ballad album. At all.

From the opener "Dynamite" to the closer, "Jukebox of Steel", anyone with half an ear to modern country could not mistake this for anything but a work from Farrar. And, like most of his albums, this is travelling music. Either you're on the move or you're being moved along with this music. Farrar is such a clear and resonant narrator, in spite of his sometimes nasal voice and introvert lyrics. He always gets us moving along and wanting to know more the next time around in the song.

"Down To The Wire" is as funky as alt. country gets (and it is funky). "Cocaine and Ashes" is a slow piano tune about Keith Richards (and his alleged sniffing of his dad's ashes). "Dust of Daylight" is as beautiful as anything The Byrds did, in that country groove that few can do so well. "When The Wheels Don't Move" is a rocker on the heavy side of the groove. Wurlitzer and fuzz guitar. Who said that's not the toughest thing around? "No Turning Back" is a road song that will probably stand out like "Tear Stained Eye" and "Gramophone" in time ahead. "Exiles" might climb up there as well, and the last one out, "Jukebox of Steel", is perfect for sending you off out into the night. Probably on your way into a previous Son Volt/Farrar record.

I'm not one to prophesize where Americana would be today without Farrar moving it ahead and leading the way. But I am glad I don't have to speculate about that - for as long as he's keeping it up, writing new songs and putting together people in his band that keeps the ship on a steady course. I'm happy to be here to bear witness.

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