published: 24 /
Carl Bookstein at the Majestic Theater in Detroit watches much acclaimed alt. country band Son Volt play a poetically lyrical and passionately explosive set
Detroit’s Majestic Theater is abuzz tonight with anticipation. There is not a huge crowd, but you can feel the excitement in the air. The show begins and Son Volt chime together perfectly from the get go with their opener 'The Picture' from the album 'The Search'. It is clear the audience is in for a treat.
Hot on the heels of their latest album 'American Central Dust', Son Volt play rich Americana inspired alternative country rock. Lead singer and songwriter Jay Farrar’s singing voice is a national treasure. His astute songwriting is filled with poetic lyrical imagery.
Farrar’s voice cuts to the core as he sings of concrete landscapes and diesel fumes. His singing is at once poignant and soothing. The touring band is right in synch, including James Walbourne on guitar and Mark Spencer on keyboards and pedal steel.
Son Volt arose out of the ashes of the break-up of influential alt.country band Uncle Tupelo. With Son Volt, Jay Farrar has stayed true to his original alt.country sound.
A few songs in, the band plays 'Down to the Wire' off the new album. Farrar sings of memories and landscapes, disappearing averages and long dead industry titans. James Walbourne takes up the lap steel and Mark Spencer adds some fine keyboard work. The rocking Americana of Son Volt along with Farrar’s resonant singing go straight to the soul.
Next is the honky tonk sound of 'Dust of Daylight' with its sharp lyric, Love is a fog and you stumble every step you make'. Following is 'Cocaine and Ashes', a lovely ballad and the story of Keith Richards (“I’ve tried everything once/I have no pretensions of immortality.”) Walbourne plays great electric slide guitar work here as Spencer is mesmerizing on pedal steel.
'When the Wheels Don’t Move' is a critical commentary on the state of the nation, followed by a strong rendition of 'Ten Second News' from Son Volt’s debut album 'Trace'. From there the band goes into 'Dynamite', another track from 'American Central Dust' as they go on to play most of their latest album.
A rocking version of 'Jukebox of Steel' is followed by a new song entitled 'Big Sur'. Once again drawing from 'Trace', Son Volt play a pleasing version of 'Tear Stained Eye' (“Can you deny there’s nothing greater/nothing more than the travelling hand of time?”? Spencer’s pedal steel and the whole band blend wonderfully on this classic tune.
Next is 'Strength and Doubt', one of the finest tunes from the new album. Farrar’s vocal brings the listener a step closer to nirvana.
These musicians, the latest incarnation of Son Volt play together so well with newcomer Walbourne playing blistering but tasteful guitar leads. The encore includes 'Roll On' and the crowd favourite 'Windfall', a welcome choice as Farrar sings “May the wind take your troubles away.”
Jay Farrar and company conclude with the Waylon Jennings tune, 'Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?'- a song that appears on the remastered version of the seminal Uncle Tupelo album 'Anodyne'. All told, Son Volt have given it their all on this night, playing a fully satisfying concert and one to remember.