Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
n these charged times, Son Volt made it clear where it was coming from on the opening song, "The 99." The title, of course, refers to the rest of us who aren't flush with cash.
As lead singer Jay Farrar sang, "Journalists in jail covering the scenes/
The profit columns rise for the corporate machines/Take the stand now, protest and holler/Desecration of the land for the almighty dollar."
Not everything, of course, was so political, but this was a charged set in another way. Aside from "The 99," the first chunk of the show found the band firing on all cylinders rocking away. Seemingly gone were the Americana/rootsy sounds for which they were known.
Ah, but they came back time and again with Son Volt creating a diverse set spanning a few musical niches.
The country and Americana bent came towards the end with such songs as "Afterglow," Tearstained Eye" and "Windfall," some of SV's best-known material to close out the regular set.
And so it continued into the encore with the country-based "Hearts and Minds" and "Back Against the Wall" before uncorking the fury of The Rolling Stones' "Monkey Man" showcasing the band's talents.
That would rest more clearly with keyboard and pedal steel man Mark Spencer, who once upon a time was with the Boston-based country band Blood Oranges, and ace guitarist Chris Frame, stellar whether twangy or cranking it.
While Son Volt may have carried a big stick when it came to its messaging, Farrar continues to avoid that as the front man. He has not grown any more chatty or engaging as the years pass.
That meant he and his band mates had to do it with their music. On that score, Son Volt was more than a winner.
Kentucky native Ian Noe opened with a set that leaned on Dylan for sentiment, but Noe was not a copycat. Operating as a duo with sharp guitarist Andrew Sovine, he received a hefty 55 minutes as the opening act and made the most of it with songs and intensity that stood up for the long haul. Noe unveiled a bunch of well-conceived and well-delivered songs off that release and even a new song, "The Promised Land."
With Noe's debut dropping at the end of the month, it's important to note that Dave Cobb was his producer. So, he fits right in with the type of artists - Chris Stapleton (more bluesy), Colter Wall, Brent Cobb and Sturgill Simpson - that Cobb has worked with. Whether the Cobb touch wears off on him, of course, is unknown, but based on this outing, that would be no surprise.