Album Preview – Son Volt “Notes Of Blue”

When Uncle Tupelo splintered into two bands back in 1994, both offshoots seemed primed for more or less equal success. After all, Uncle Tupelo had always balanced two distinct singing and songwriting voices, and both were held in similarly high esteem at the time.

In 1995, those bands — Son Volt, led by Jay Farrar, and Wilco, led by Jeff Tweedy — released similarly heralded (and terrific) debuts. But their fates and reputations shifted considerably from there: Wilco grew more iconic and creatively expansive, ultimately overshadowing even the genre-defining band that spawned it, while Son Volt settled into cult status and an unsteady career path marked by lineup and label changes, as well as a hiatus to accommodate a brief solo career.

But Son Volt has always deserved more attention than it’s gotten, and the occasion of its eighth album is as good a time as any to revisit a sound that’s worn well with time. At just 31 minutes, Notes Of Blue provides a lean and sturdy showcase for Farrar’s eternally weary but undiminished voice — which here gets employed in the service of shimmery ballads (“Promise The World,” “Cairo And Southern”) and rowdy, chugging rockers (“Static,” “Lost Souls”) alike.

By Stephen Thompson