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Son Volt | American Central Dust

Rounder (2009)
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  July 15, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

With American Central Dust, Jay Farrar has now accomplished something he was unable to do either during Son Volt's initial run (1995-99) or his evidently aborted solo career (2001-04): released three consecutive albums of undeniable quality. The newest set by the reconstituted Son Volt is as solid as, if less fussy and more pensive than, 2005's Okemah and the Melody of Riot or 2007's The Search.

The latest configuration — new guitarist Chris Masterson and keyboardist/steel guitarist Mark Spencer augment Farrar, bassist Andrew Duplantis, and drummer Dave Bryson — is more settled in. American Central Dust feels as if it was cut by a band that's worked together for years, even if it is a brand new band. There's an easiness and directness to these tunes that was missing the last couple of times out, aided by Joe Henry and Ryan Freeland's no-nonsense mix but owing mainly to Farrar's vivid songwriting.

The most talked-about tune will undoubtedly be the spare, lush piano-driven ballad "Cocaine and Ashes," a tribute to Keith Richards ("I snorted my father and I'm still alive/I did it because that's how it is done/I'm the same as everyone, just kind of lucky"). But virtually all of the new material (including the gnashing "When the Wheels Don't Move," a thinly veiled commentary on the current economy) makes for a worthy addition to Farrar's catalog.
  Topics: CD Reviews , Keith Richards, Joe Henry, Son Volt,  More more >
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