Category: Son Volt

Son Volt – Straightaways

ARTIST: Son Volt                               220px-Straightaways

TITLE:  Straightaways

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #44

SINGLES: Back into Your World, Caryatid Easy

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Way Down Watson

LINEUP: Jay Farrar, Dave Boquist, Eric Heywood, Jim Boquist, Mike Heidorn

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second Son Volt album seems unfocused and a bit of a letdown after such a strong debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jay Farrar and crew’s second album starts off sort of strong with “Caryatid Easy”, a straightforward rocker with a country tinge. It gives one hope that their second album would be as good as their first, or close to it.

But that’s not the case. As the album rolls along, the songs become more laborious and ponderous. The last half of the album especially gets a bit languid (mostly thanks to Farrar’s vocals on the slower ballads), and the lyrics more and more obtuse. It’s not that there’s not good material here, but it comes down to pacing. “Caryatid Easy” could have / should have been in the middle somewhere and “Cemetery Savior” or another mid-tempo track could have been the opener.

The lack of a really memorable track also makes this record a bit disappointing. There’s not one that I could really recall without listening to it again (unlike other songs that I sing or hum in my head all of the time). It’s just falls short.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Eric Heywood is credited as a full band member on this album, though he was also the touring guitar tech.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: Good songs, not great songs, and the pacing and sequencing isn’t the best.

Son Volt – Trace

ARTIST: Son Volt                Son_Volt-Trace_(album_cover)

TITLE:  Trace

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: #166

SINGLES: Drown (#10 Mainstream, #25 Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Windfall, Live Free

LINEUP: Jay Farrar, Dave Boquist, Jim Boquist, Mike Heidorn. Eric Heywood added pedal steel.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After the acrimonious breakup of Uncle Tupelo, Jay Farrar forms his own band (like Jeff Tweedy) and releases probably the best record of his career.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Uncle Tupelo legacy battle was originally won by Jay Farrar, forming Son Volt with Uncle Tupelo founding drummer Mike Heidorn and the Boquist brothers. This first album is packed with tracks that may not have been out of place on any Uncle Tupelo record, except for the upgrade in the recording budget.

Farrar’s voice is weary and melancholy, which fits all of this material perfectly. The opener, “Windfall”, may be the best example of Alt-Country going, and as the album goes on, from ballad to rocker, Farrar and the band play with purpose and feeling.

As a document of where Alt Country was in 1995, this is it. It perfectly encapsulates the genre and why it was so important for the music scene.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Uncle Tupelo split in 1994 with Wilco and Son Volt forming soon after. Wilco got the Sire contract left over from Uncle Tupelo, while Son Volt signed with Warner Brothers

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. 

GRADE: A+: I wore this thing out in 1995, which is hard to do with a CD.