Sunday, January 31, 2021


 Hang on, what the bejasus has this to do with walls, I hear you say, the perfectly decent back to Bakersfield project by Jay Farrar and his revolving door of troubadours? More about building bridges, surely, between the goddam longhair americana hippies and the more trad what Hank did iterations of a redder necked country. Yebbut, but go check out the track listing, with at least three tracks referencing walls and barriers. See? That's good enough for me.

Big fan of Son Volt, as much as for Jay Farrar being there to assist at the birth of No Depression/Alt Country and all the many myriad names to try and disguise the solid bloodline of, or the musical origins and forbears of the style. Country rock was good enough for me in the 70s, but I guess that name suggests the need and presence of a drum kit, so fair play. Farrar and his for-a-while buddy, Jeff Tweedy had been the impetus within the band Uncle Tupelo, a honey of a group that, ahead of clashes of personality, produced some glorious music. Did they do any songs around walls or obstructions? Not as such, but this one acknowledges the truth that most doors have a need for surrounding masonry.....

Screen Door

Anyhow, moving on, and with Farrar moving out of Tweedyshot, and with Uncle Tupelo essentially having become Wilco, Farrar needed gainful. Son Volt began as a band in 1994, Farrar hooking back up again with Tupelo original member and drummer, Mike Heidhorn, himself also having, some time before, fallen out of step with Tweedy, recruiting the Boquist brothers. Hitting the red dirt ground running, their debut, Traces, was well received if not so well bought. That line up, plus additional instrumentation, produced three albums before Farrar called quits; as the principal writer, it was effectively his band. A wall link? Well, I believe that creosote is sometimes applied as weather proofing to wooden walls?


Five years later and Farrar seemed ready to pick up the brand again, initially with the same members. However, following a solitary appearance on an Alejandro Escovado benefit/tribute album, this was not to be, and a near totally new set of sidemen were recruited. This version, shedding and adding as required, have since pursued a somewhat erratic course, careering from style to style. You want some Dylanesque ballads? Tick. Barroom brawlers? Likewise. But, for me it was and is Honky Tonk that hits their lodestone. Perhaps this is because that is the style of music I like best within the broad church of country, with, here, the sounds and influences of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens spilling through into this recording with affection and respect. Predominantly acoustic of guitar, bar the essential wail of pedal steel, with twin fiddles and the never more mournful vocal of Farrar, this format ideal for his world weary tones And, add the premium of three songs based around walls, there is nothing to obstruct the right of this album to lead this thread.

Brick Walls



Beautiful stuff! OK, the lyrics may be a little hokey, but, hell, that's the M.O., they have to be; an effortless recreation of the fabled Bakersfield sound, that must even had Dwight Yoakam eating out his own heart. The steel, variously by Mark Spencer and Brad Sarno, is just exquisite. Given Farrar has now embarked on a 25 years later revisioning of his Son Volt output, with last years re-released Traces, with additional unreleased material, I can't wait for, gulp, 2038.

Build it up!

blog comments powered by Disqus