Jay Farrar sings about light after darkness on Son Volt’s new song “Promise the World,” fusing melody and comforting intonation to the stark state of affairs we may find ourselves facing from time to time. By the third chorus, the listener feels a stealing of resolve. Later, within another song where we feel our back is against the wall, we acknowledge that there’s “…darkness at our doorstep,” though the song implores us to “keep our feet on the ground…”
What better time for a soothing record like “Notes of Blue?” And, what better time for Son Volt to come to Ann Arbor?
With all the tension, dread, and/or anger that seems to be dominating the op-eds and front pages when it comes to our national news, this record entered the scene at a perfect point as the whole country soul searches with a not so quiet panic. “Notes of Blue” restores a bit of, well, hope! It’s a strangely optimistic album, despite the urgent stakes it addresses in the lyrics.
The salve of blues music is at its most effective during moments of our lives when we are taking stock, ruminating, weighing options and recalibrating our whole mindset. It draws power away from various demons and reinforces itself against whatever kind of trouble. And what’s so profound about “Notes of Blue” is that it’s the most radiant of dark albums. Darkness pervades the periphery of several tracks like a constant villain in the album’s narrative, and yet the music, the melodies, the mightiness of the rock-n-roll arrangements, nurtures new muscles for your defense against it.
Pedal steel guitar glides across the pace-slowing, acoustic “Promise The World,” with its pensive violins and strolling twangs accompanying Farrar’s deliberate,delicate verses. A more forceful backbeat propels “Back Against The Wall,” a modest anthem that could gird the spirit of anyone with a collar tinted azure. “Static” is a cathartic, grimace-wearing riffer that just feels good to stomp its way through some muddy rock n roll murk and kick up some defiant dust into the air, while a warbly vocal rides the sails of some healthily mean sounding guitars.
Current’s pick: “Lost Souls.” This one’s definitely a rocker, something you’d accelerate to if your car stereo blasted it on the freeway or an assured inciter of fitful dancing if you hear it at the club. “Let the music play on…” Farrar sings, before a buzzsaw of electric guitars quicken and roar, “…this world won’t give us the time…” There is a fantastic urgency and defiance to this song. So much of the newest batch of songs from Son Volt sounds like the soothsayer who spurs you to go back out into the world, even if it’s storming. And boy, has it been storming all year, so far…
Son Volt comes to the Ark on Sunday, April 2
Their latest album, “Notes of Blue,” was released in late February on Universal Music