Son Volt's return last year was much ballyhooed, but a new live DVD suggests what many fans already knew: That Jay Farrar's experimental solo excurisons weren't as dramatically weird as some thought. After recording four albums of guitarfueled country-rock with Uncle Tupelo and sparking a miniature Americana movement, Farrar put that beloved cult band on ice. His Tupelo counterpart Jeff Tweedy was first out of the gate with his Wilco, but Farrar and his weepy voice quickly rallied original Tupelo drummer Mike Heidorn and the Boquist brothers, guitarist Dave anbd bassist Jim, to continue Tupelo's fusion of country twang and rock energy. Through three albums -- Trace, Straightaways and Wide Swing Tremolo -- the band did just that, mixing chugging rockers with teary, fiddle-driven ballads. But Farrar wanted to do something new and put the group on ice. His solo output was jarring, espeically the strange and sometimes compelling Terroir Blues, with some art rock flourishes and psychedelic elements that didn't have that country vibe. Farrar got the Son Volt guys back together, though it didn't last long. Ready to return ot the Son Volt sound, his counterparts passed and he found a new ensemble. That group recorded Okemah and the Melody of Riot, last year's album of Son Volt songs colored by political undercurrents inspired, as the title indicates, by Woody Guthrie. Having zigged and zagged a few times, Farrar offers little insight as to where he might turn next.
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