Posts Tagged ‘Notes Of Blue’

Son Volt’s new album, Notes of Blue, is “a tribute and a chance to connect with icons and heroes” for group founder and leader Jay Farrar.

The 10-song set — Son Volt’s eighth studio release and first in four years, due out February. 17th is the culmination of a pair of projects Farrar had in motion. “I was working on two different kinds of projects at the same time,” he says. “A Nick Drake, English folk-inspired project and a more blues-oriented band project.

Ultimately I felt like there was a commonality of purpose there, a common ethic, especially in terms of finger-picking and alternative tunings being a method with all those guys. So eventually those two projects just merged into one.”

The result is an album that has blues at its base  such as the raw shuffle of “Sinking Down,” but with ambience and texture that can be heard in other tracks such as “Lost Souls” and “Cairo and Southern.” “I was aiming for where blues and folk and country music converge,” Farrar explains. “Ultimately I see it as kind of folk record and a rock record with elements of the blues — all of those things. There’s even some garage rock thrown in there,” such as on the stomping “Cherokee St.” and “The Storm.”

The “icons and heroes” he sourced for Notes of Blue were Nick Drake, Skip James and Mississippi Fred McDowell, specifically tapping into those alternate tunings he mentions. “At first they might seem a bit incongruous together, but I felt like there was a certain mystique attached to the guitar tunings and guitar voicings those guys used,” Farrar says. “They can open a lot of doors or provide a lot of different avenues to go down. It emanates from looking for ways to be challenged, really.”

Farrar was also anxious to strap on his electric guitar again after Notes of Blue predecessors such as 2013’s Honky Tonk and 2009’s rootsy American Central Dust. “Part of that meant bringing out the old Webster Chicago amplifier I used for Son Volt’s (1995 debut) record Trace, the amplifier that’s on the cover of that record,” Farrar says. “It’s a low-powered amp that just delivers a big sound, and I just wanted to revisit the sound of that amp. It sort of represents a quintessential sounding blues amplifier.”

Farrar plans to return to standard guitar tuning for his next project, but first he’ll be taking Son Volt on the road to support Notes of Blue. The trek kicks off March 2nd in Little Rock, Ark., and so far has dates booked into mid-May, including the Stagecoach California Country Music Festival on April 28. The new songs will be fun to play live, he predicts, but Farrar acknowledges that the different tunings will require some coordination with his techs in the wings. “We’re going to have some long talks, with charts about what guitars to use when,” Farrar says. “It’s going to be an adventure.”

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If Jay Farrar’s name is unfamiliar to you, his music shouldn’t be. As one half of Uncle Tupelo, and then fellow bandmate Jeff Tweedy married the roar of punk rock with traditional country sounds for four albums, including their 1990 debut, No Depression, which help spew an entire genre of music now known as alt-country. With Farrar’s Springsteen-like tales of life in the Midwest (the duo hailed from Belleville, Illinois, outside of St. Louis) and Tweedy’s ruminations on love and relationships, the influence of Uncle Tupelo is legendary.

Farrar and Tweedy’s relationship was combustible to say the least, and they called it quits in 1994. Tweedy would go on to form Wilco and Jay Farrar carried on with Son Volt, debuting Trace, in 1995. Over the course of seven Son Volt albums and a hefty solo output, Farrar has immersed himself in all types of roots music, from folk to crunching rock. Now, with a new album “Notes of Blue”, scheduled for release February 17th 2017.

Farrar delivers a collection of songs inspired by the giants of Mississippi blues. two songs from Notes of Blue, “Back Against the Wall” and “Lost Souls” .