Words by: Drew Iden :: Images by: Jeremy Jones
Son Volt :: 05.11.07 :: Variety Playhouse :: Atlanta, GA
For years, Son Volt has been identified primarily with the distinctive voice and songwriting of bandleader, Jay Farrar. He and his band mates have weaved a thread in the alt-country scene that some love, and well, some don't. In their first foray into the Big Peach since last year, Son Volt returned in support of their latest effort, The Search (3/6/07 Transmit Sound/Legacy), the second album since Farrar's return to the band after a hiatus that was met with disappointment by many fans. His solo work, while critically hailed, just didn't match the rock power of Son Volt.
Son Volt :: 05.11
With a new lead guitarist, Farrar and company spun through a 23-song set and four-song encore that had the crowd on their feet the whole time. For those who don't have any use for between song chatter, Son Volt is your band. Farrar spoke very little, opening with a simple "rock on" before they charged into the new album's title track. Farrar's voice, long the highlight of this band, hasn't changed one bit in almost 20 years. While personnel come and go, Farrar stays true to his conversational style.
Farrar - Son Volt :: 05.11
The new single, "The Picture," may give old school Son Volt fans a reason to raise an eyebrow. Its saxophone and trumpet sound gives it a ska feel, not something old Volt fans are used to hearing. Live, the horns were a great addition and the crowd embraced them with full enthusiasm. "Underground Dream" followed, its melancholy sound makes it true a gem and the band was able to clearly translate it to the stage in a way that was nothing short of beautiful.
Son Volt :: 05.11
The band's regular guitarist, Brad Rice, has been a no-show on this tour due to his work with Keith Urban, but his replacement, Chris Masterson, is capably filling his shoes. Masterson's style coupled with Farrar's voice proved to be an incredible combination throughout the show, like a pair of old friends finishing each other's thoughts.
While heavy on new material, Son Volt peppered their set with some old classics. Once Farrar got out his weathered acoustic and struck the opening chords to "Tear Stained Eye" the crowd was stoked and relieved. They also brought out perhaps their best known cut, "Windfall," towards the end of the set. It's about as country as Son Volt gets.
Masterson & Farrar - Son Volt :: 05.11
After an hour, it was clear Son Volt has a very blue-collar attitude. They played for about two hours, and managed to squeeze in 27 songs, finishing one and going right into the next with no hesitation. Most bands are hard pressed to offer up more than 14 or 15 songs in concert but Son Volt does things their way - charging hard through 20 or more songs on a nightly basis, and Atlanta was no exception.
While the new tunes were embraced, it was clear that the old hits were what most in attendance wanted to hear. Farrar and company satisfied that need with "Tear Stained Eye," "Drown" and a rearranged version of "Voodoo Candle." Towards the end, they found a bluesy spot on a prairie filled with primarily rock and country on "Damn Shame," a tune from Farrar's Sebastopol solo effort, where he displayed great harmonica rhythm and even a few short guitar solos which allowed Masterson to showcase his incredible slide work.
Son Volt :: 05.11
Son Volt's current lineup is clearly an ensemble effort, with everyone holding his own. Masterson is more than capable of carrying the torch lit by Brad Rice, and the rhythm section of Andrew Duplantis (bass) and Dave Bryson (drums) are still great, as they have been from day one. Derry De Borja showed solid range on the keyboards, melding piano and Hammond B-3 together all night long.
Son Volt has crafted some great music over the years, and despite a few hiccups, they've managed to stay true to the sound they created after the implosion of Uncle Tupelo, a band many consider the catalyst for the alt-country scene. A solid rock foundation with pinches of country and blues for good measure, Son Volt was clearly up to all their old tricks.
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