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Son Volt
The Search
Legacy Recordings

I can't quite pin down what's going on inside Jay Farrar's head. When he decided to reform Son Volt a couple years back, he gathered a few young dudes and put out a solid album of alt. country-tinged rock and roll. Then last year he did Gob Iron, a project with Anders Parker that was totally opposite of anything else either was doing at the time, culling old hill songs about death, of all things. That record was superb - haunting and melancholy with a resonance that far outshone almost anything either artist had done on his own. Now, on the new Son Volt record, The Search, Jay seems to have gotten a lot of things out of his system and is falling back into patterns he explored on his solo records, the tremendous Sebastopol and the weirdly amazing Terroir Blues.

"Slow Hearse" starts the album off with reverse tape-sounding loops and strong piano carrying the simple vocal line, "Feels like driving around in a slow hearse." Farrar throws in some amazing horns on the poppy "The Picture", a song that has his unmistakable stamp on it, but leans more toward Memphis soul than I ever imagined he could. I know the press was shocked that there would be horns on a Son Volt record, but honestly, it works better than any other attempts I've heard in the past decade. "Action" sounds like the most logical continuation of Terroir Blues, with it's "oh oh ohhoh oh oh" chorus and the amazing turnarounds involving some amazing lyrical exchanges. This is Jay Farrar at his best… clever and musically literate, but stretching his own boundaries. "Underground Dream" moves back into the soul realm a bit with big drums and achingly yearning electric piano lines, while "Circadian Rhythm" has an almost jam-band feel, with swirling, dreamy guitars and crisp drumming. "The Search" goes back to classic Son Volt beautiful dirty guitar tones and rhythmic intensity, coupled with Farrar's highly emotional vocals espousing his unique philosophies: "Nothing to take back or exchange/ double engine dharma express train/ always dreaming it's the search not the find."

While The Search is a fairly logical continuation of the older Son Volt, it is quite a bit of a throwback from where we all thought this new, younger band was heading. Farrar proves himself once again one of the most literate and thoughtful songwriters in modern music, while stretching his musical boundaries to new limits. Horns, pianos, and weird loops help to flesh out the sound of The Search, bringing us back to Farrar at his most pure and experimentally sonic.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Slow Hearse
2. The Picture
3. Action
4. Underground Dream
5. Circadian Rhythm
6. Beacon Soul
7. The Search
8. Adrenaline And Heresy
9. Satellite
10. Automatic Society
11. Methamphetamine
12. L Train
13. Highways And Cigarettes
14. Phosphate Skin

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