Review: Son Volt Offers a Rally Cry for Today’s Troubled Times

Son Volt/ Electro Melodier/Thirty Tigers
Four out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

As they approach the 30th anniversary of when they were first founded, Son Volt comes across as potent as ever. Still the ever-insurgent Americana rebels, they continue to carry the dictates shared in their previous incarnation as Uncle Tupelo, originators of the so-called “No Depression” movement of several decades past. Electro Melodier, culled from the names of two vintage amplifiers, finds founder and chief mainstay Jay Farrar espousing thoughts on the division, discord, and political strife that’s engulfed the nation while leaving a dispirited citizenry in its wake. Indeed, from the emphatic opening track “Reverie” on, Farrar rails against the lies, hypocrisy, and ill-advised policies that have mired the nation in anger and intransigence. 

Raise the bar a little higher, see the shadow flames from the fire, Farrar urges at the outset, before lamenting the toll taken by the pandemic on the telling “These Are the Times”: Don’t let your hope, your driving force drag on the ground.

Both arched and inspired, the band shares its sentiments through a combination of rugged resolve and weary rebukes. “Livin’ in the U.S.A.” cuts to the core, an insistent anthem built on a tangled tapestry of failed promises and an ever-expanding literary of lies:

Share a little truth
With your neighbor down the block
We’re all for fossil fuel lungs
While we run out the clock…

Granted, the doomsday sentiment is hardly compatible with a typical entertaining experience, but Farrar, like many artists these days, has rekindled his passion for protest and songs that offer a meaningful refrain. For all the angst it musters, Electro Melodier is still a reasonably emphatic effort, one with a drive and determination that never finds cause to falter. Son Volt is, after all, a prime example of heartland rockers in an Everyman guise, ever-engaged troopers determined to rally the masses and reflect their resolve. They may rail against a skewered situation, but they keep to a sure-footed sound while carrying the cause forward.

Photo by Ismael Quintanilla

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