An album I would heartily recommend to everyone is the 2007 release by Son Volt entitled “The Search”.
If you’re unfamiliar with the band, here is a little potted history.
The leader of the band is Jay Farrar. He was previously in Uncle Tupelo with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Uncle Tupelo were the inspiration for the whole alt-country / Americana movement and its Bible “No Depression” took its title from their material. When that band went their separate ways, Farrar formed Son Volt who debuted in 1995 with arguably their finest album, “Trace”. The sophomore release “straightaways” followed in 1997 and then there was “Wide Swing Tremolo” in ’98. By this time significant tensions had arisen amongst the four members and there seemed to be no more Son Volt material on the horizon. Farrar began to record and tour as a solo act. He released “Sebastopol” and “Terroir Blues” accompanied by an e.p. called “ThirdShiftGrottSlack” and a clutch of live albums.
The band reformed in 2004 to record a track for a benefit album “Por Vida” which was to raise funds for songwriter Alejandro Escovedo who had become seriously ill. The song was completed and released but on the verge of a new Son Volt album, Farrar sacked the remaining members of the band, reclaimed the name and formed a new Son Volt.
Not the most invigorating or promising turn of events then but the new band released 2005’s “Okemah and the Melody of Riot” and then the aforementioned “The Search” in 2007.
So what about this slightly ugly story would inspire someone to buy “The Search”. Well, Farrar is the consummate singer / songwriter and Son Volt gives him an electric arena to display the full range of emotions captured in his songs. The plus factor is that “The Search” is an astonishingly deep album as my title alluded. If you stray into your local cd emporium you’ll buy a 14 track cd with that title. A glance on ebay will show that the early copies of that cd came with two alternate E.P.s of the same title. If you go to iTunes you will find a further 8 tracks are available on the “deluxe edition”. The 22 tracks of the deluxe edition can also be found on vinyl on Sonvolt.com in a set entitled “On Chant and Strum”.
Most great songwriters write prolifically for a few years and then run out of that first storm of ideas and the songs become fewer and farther between. This doesn’t seem to have happened with Farrar. Of the 28 recordings that I’ve mentioned, that are associated with “The Search” project, nothing here sounds like filler. In fact the sweetness and beauty of some of the extras – “Coltrane Free”, “Acetone Angels”, “Bicycle Hotel” – have to be heard to be believed.
Do yourself a favour, buy “The Search”.