SON VOLT

American Central Dust

2009-06-15

With their first effort for Rounder Records, Son Volt offers up American Central Dust - their 6th full-length recording. While many of the band members have changed since Son Volt's debut Trace in 1995, one constant has been lead vocalist and primary songwriter, Jay Farrar. Continuing mostly in the genre and vein of Americana inspired rock, Farrar calls this effort a little more positive than previous recordings while still reflecting socio-politically on the past. Bringing back memories of early R.E.M., the Volt kicks things off with the short, harmonious and accordion driven "Dynamite." Then, inspired by Keith Richard's admission (later revoked) that he had smoked his father's ashes, "Cocaine and Ashes," brings to light the effects of addiction with a stripped down sound - mostly carried by the fiddle, piano and Farrar's heartfelt vocals. In the vein of Americana inspired music, "Sultana" brings the listener back to the maritime tragedy of 1865 wherein the greatest steamboat disaster in American history occurred - often referred to as the Titanic of the Mississippi. Perhaps the best song here, "When the Wheels Don't Move," delves into the socio-political realm highlighting the greed and avarice of the oil industry. Here, Farrar is admittedly inspired by the soaring gas prices of 2009 as he sings: "Who makes the decision / to feed the tanks and not the mouths / when the wheels don't move." Overall, while there's nothing spectacular here and there's a few missteps along the way, what Son Volt has recorded is a well rounded album that grows more interesting after each listen. ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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