The Show: Wednesday, September 14, 2005
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Jay Farrar’s Son Volt packs a melodious riot.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Son Volt

By Anthony Mariani

Here’s a story about two accidental icons and how one is experiencing great commercial and critical success while the other continues to languish in semi-obscurity.

In the early 1990s, Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar formed a band called Uncle Tupelo. By countrifying Murmur-era R.E.M.’s more rockish components and rockifying Nick Lowe’s more country-ish flights of fancy, Uncle Tupelo found itself at the forefront of a movement whose advocates published a poorly written music magazine out of North Carolina by the name of No Depression. A few years later, Tweedy created a group called Wilco. Around the same time, Farrar began rocking out with his own project, Son Volt. Wilco is as popular as a non-mainstream act can get. Son Volt would be lucky to fill the Four Star Coffee Bar.

Thus, a body can understand the roiling frustration that’s manifest in the trés lefty ideology of Okemah and the Melody of Riot, Son Volt’s latest. At turns melancholy and boisterous, contemplative and festive, Okemah is never anything less than loud — which does not mean that chaos rules. Nearly every song is perfectly arranged and structured. “Jet Pilot,” a sing-songy attack on “Junior,” is a supremely artful exercise in sonic chiaroscuro. During the light episodes, Farrar rides his surprised-sounding tenor up and down a swaying, slightly twangy, finger-picked electric guitar line — no drums, no bass, just Farrar and his six-string. During the dark moments, the entire band detonates two gigantic notes, each bar followed by a single, strangled guitar riff. Magically, both the light and dark parts sound as if they belong together.

The rest of the album does an equally admirable job in exploring the battle between light and darkness, good and evil. Most of the strong songs are well met by their rather impressionistic, agitprop lyrics. You can bet that Farrar’s not gonna gain any new fans in red-state Texas, but something tells me that he’s probably not too concerned.

Sat with Earlimart at Gypsy Tea Room, 2548 Elm St, Dallas. 214-74-GYPSY.


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