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Son Volt at The Ark, 5 Things To Know
It's been a proverbial long and winding road for Jay Farrar since he formed Son Volt 23 years ago after the end of Uncle Tupelo.
Over the course of eight studio albums the singer and guitarist has led an array of lineups through alt.country, rock, honky tonk, Americana and a variety of other indigenous American roots styles. The group's just released latest, "Notes Of Blue," lives up to its title with Farrar's bluesiest outing yet, although the trio of influences he mines -- Skip James, Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Nick Drake -- allow him to cut a wide swatch that makes it far more than just a blues album.
It also lets Farrar strap on his electric guitar again after immediate predecessors such as 2013's "Honky Tonk" and 2009's rootsy "American Central Dust." And rest assured he makes up for lost time...
It's been nearly four years between albums for Son Volt, but Farrar, 50, feels it's been time well spent. "There was a period in between where I was doing acoustic shows, then the Son Volt 'Trace' reissue was out," he says by phone.."I think that sort of formed the perspective to get back to playing electric guitar and get Son Volt going on something new.
The blues-oriented focus of "Notes Of Blue" has been a long time coming, Farrar acknowledges. "I guess over the years I've kind of fallen into an approach that drills down a bit," he explains. "I've always had one foot in a historical perspective to sort of learn about the elements that came to form the music that I've been playing and so forth. I've done a few blues-oriented songs over the years and I just wanted to focus a bit more on it this time."
The album was, however, an outgrowth of two separate projects Farrar was pursuing at about the same time. "I was kind of working on two different projects at the same time," he says, "a Nick Drake, English folk-inspired project and also a more blues-oriented project. Ultimately I felt like there was a commonality of purpose there, a common ethic, especially in terms of finger picking being and alternative tunings being something they all used. Eventually both those projects just merged into one. I felt like there was a common aesthetic there. So this is like a tribute to those three guys and a chance to connect with icons and heroes."
The result, he adds, falls something between the two styles. "I was aiming for where blues and folk and country music converge," Farrar says. "And I also wanted to get back to playing electric guitar. So that was a component also. Ultimately I see it as kind of a folk record, a rock record, elements of the blues, all of those things -- even some garage rock in there."
And you can expect whatever Farrar does next to explore yet another creative direction. "With this record being comprised of alternate (guitar) tunings, I'm looking for the next project to be back to standard tuning," he predicts. "I've written a fair amount of songs since November, so hopefully I'll have time to get in the studio and record some new stuff."
Son Volt and Anders Parker
7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 2.
The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor.
Tickets are sold out.
Call 734-761-1451 or visit theark.org.
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