For the faithful, the return of Jay Farrar to a full band
is a miraculous and wonderful thing. And despite the fact that the
original members of Son Volt did not return (allegedly, none
were available for less than an insane amount of money), Farrar has
put together a new band that preserves the spirit of his original
post-Uncle Tupelo vision very accurately. The new rhythm section
is tight and punchy, exactly what one would expect from any project
that Farrar was involved with, and the new guitar player is a more
than able replacement for Dave Boquist, seamlessly moving from
fuzzy leads to smooth slides. The proof of these claims is immediately
recognizable upon dropping Okemah And The Melody Of Riot into
the CD player.
The album begins with "Bandages & Scars", an obtuse
homage to Woody Guthrie filled with clearly chiming guitars,
brilliant rhythm work, and the distinct voice and phrasing of Jay
Farrar. It is apparent that this will not be a record that it takes
a few listens to fall in love with, as the reaction is instant. "Afterglow
61" rocks the speakers a bit more than any of the artistically
stunning music that Farrar has produced on his past few solo recordings,
going for the gut more than for the ears. This is solid, pure Son
Volt magic. "Jet Pilot" borrows a few licks from earlier
Son Volt tracks and morphs them just enough to sound fresh under their
blanket of tremolo-heavy crystalline guitar and the keen urgency of
Farrar's vocal delivery. If you are a fan of Farrar's slow down tracks,
then you will not be disappointed when songs like "Atmosphere"
sneak up on you. The sounds are exercises in perfection, and the lyrics
maintain that unbelievably raw and beautiful Farrar poetry. "Ipecac"
moves the album into acoustic guitar territory, showcasing slide licks
that are instantly familiar and immediately evoke the spirit of Son
Volt of old, clean old-school country rhythms, and a host of stirring
melodies. "Endless War" is a dark, heavy track filled with
some brilliant guitar playing that nicely offsets the heavy drums
and throbbing bass.
There are no losers in this tremendous era of a new Son Volt. Okemah...
is a collection of songs that showcases not only the powerful songwriting
talents of Jay Farrar, but also the musical talents of a younger generation
of players that were inspired by the original Son Volt line-up. The
songs are beautiful, the sounds are a tapestry of alt-country perfection,
and lyrically Farrar is still riding the wave at the top of his game.
Long live rock!
1. Bandages & Scars
2. Afterglow 61
3. Jet Pilot
7. Endless War
9. 6 String Belief
11. Chaos Streams
12. World Waits For You
13. World Waits For You (reprise)
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