Son Volt, Honky Tonk

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 03.05.13 in Reviews

Honky Tonk

Son Volt
Celebrating the wild and down sides of honky-tonk life

“There’s a reckless side of tradition, a push of the tide having its way,” sings Jay Farrar above a guitar, harmonica and accordion wailing plaintively in the background of “Livin’ On,” the centerpiece of Son Volt’s ambivalent seventh album. Farrar’s sense of tradition is hardly reckless as he celebrates both the wild and down sides of honky-tonk life — and its resident angels — through alternating midtempo waltzes and shuffles played by a stately country sextet. With the possible exception of its opening Cajun waltz (“Hearts and Minds”), this honky-tonk set is better suited for hard drinking than for dancing, and Farrar’s tear-stained laments about the ravages of time and the workingman’s blues (“No wage can buy what the world never wanted,” goes “Barricades”) are conveyed prettily through Brad Sarno’s pedal steel, Thayne Bradford’s accordion, and a pair of fiddlers. Even if it’s not necessarily for the honky-tonk, Farrar’s music convincingly conveys a world of hurt just across the tracks.