It should now be noticed that Uncle Tupelo is just a memory, while Tweedy and Farrar have had their subsequent projects for longer than Tupelo was together. With Tweedy at the helm of the Wilco universe, Jay Farrar hasn’t really gotten political with his project Son Volt. That is, until now. On their new album Union, Farrar and company reclaim some of the growl that made the first two albums from Son Volt so memorable, without mincing any words in the process.
The album is a return to form, with the opener “While Rome Burns,” Farrar doesn’t hold back on his feelings toward the Trump administration and where he sees our country headed. It’s an acoustic lead track, but the lyrics are some of the best that Farrar has penned, while the dual vocals and country twang of the instruments gives the song more depth than it would if it were all done with just the acoustic. Of course, while the politicized nature of the album cannot be unheard, the music here is where the magic lies. Sure, Farrar seems pissed on “The 99,” but the songs have so much well written structuring that they don’t fall flat like many protest music often can. The words hit hard, but the music is so well done that it reminds you of what made you a fan of these guys in the first place. “Devil May Care” has an upbeat stride, “The Reason” is close to the smiling shine of most of the tracks from Straightaways, and in many ways Farrar signals a return to writing with a purpose.
There’s also vignettes of difference on this record where Son Volt tries new things that pan out. “Lady Liberty” has their sound because it’s sung by Farrar, but it’s structured differently than the bulk of the band’s catalog. “Truth to Power Blues” is far from what you may expect from a Son Volt record, with a completely different start and a harsher sound to boot. But it’s a gamble that pays off while offering some of the more interesting sounds of the album. With that said, the big standout for us was the track “Slow Burn.” The piano driven song has the weight of a Son Volt song with this new writing style where the song has rock touches with country instruments and a pop stride. It’s magical in how it gets displayed, showing that Son Volt can still surprise us all.
You can stream Union on all streaming sites, you can purchase it in all digital music retailers or you can pick it up on vinyl from Son Volt or from Thirty Tigers Records. Son Volt will be on tour beginning April 13 in Luckenbach, TX at The Western Music Festival until June 29 in Butler, OH at Smoky Run Mountain Festival. A complete list of their tour dates can be found here.
Image Credits: Photo by David McClister.