Son Volt

STG Presents:

Son Volt

Anders Parker

Sat, May 6, 2017

8:00 pm

The Crocodile

Seattle, WA

$20 Adv.

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This event is all ages

Son Volt
Son Volt
“There are only two kinds of songs,” Townes Van Zandt said, well before he died. “There's the blues, and there's zip-a-dee-doo-dah.” The new Son Volt album is titled Notes of Blue.

Simple as that, maybe.

Just now pushing fifty, Jay Farrar, the creative force behind Son Volt, is still not as old as his voice. Not nearly. His singing voice, an ageless gift which sounds something like old timber looks, like the unpainted walls framing Walker Evans' best portraits from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: simple, durable, weathered and grooved and unplanned.

Unplanned.

Notes of Blue will be the twentieth album — including a couple live releases and two movie soundtracks — to which Farrar has lent his voice and songwriting.

He is not quite a famous man, which is probably a comfort except when bills need paying. Plenty praised, though, from the moment his first band, the influential Uncle Tupelo, recorded a punked-up version of the topical Carter Family song “No Depression,” and named their debut album after it. Photographed for magazine covers, including the inaugural edition of No Depression magazine, which argued for the arrival of something called alt-country back in 1995, when Son Volt's first album, Trace, came out.

To be clear, Notes of Blue is not the blues of appropriation, nor of beer commercials, nor especially of the W.C. Handy awards. It is the broader blues of the folk process, where they have always lived, irrespective of culture and caste. The blues as one of many languages available to shape and recast as the song needs. The blues as a jumping off point.

Or, as Jay says, “For years I’ve been drawn to the passion, common struggle and possibility for redemption that’s always been a part of the blues. Everyone has to pay the rent and get along with their significant others, so many of the themes are universal. For me, the blues fills that void that's there for religion, really. That's the place I turn to be lifted up.”

The possibility of redemption.

“There will be damage, and there will be hell to pay,” he sings on the opening track “Promise the World”. “Light after darkness, that is the way.”

The bleak prospect of redemption, he sings on the first single, “Back Against the Wall”: “What survives the long cold winter/Will be stronger and can’t be undone.”

Quintessential Son Volt. Tough, solitary, unflinching.

“There's always a threat of darkness on the horizon,” he says. “There's also a path to a better way inherent in the blues.”

And if that echoes the plaintive words of a long-gone hillbilly singer, there's no accident in that. “Hank Williams is really the key,” Farrar says. “He showed us that the blues as a music form was an integral part of country music early on.”

For Notes of Blue, Farrar’s notion of the blues focuses on specific guitar tunings, courtesy Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Nick Drake. And on the structure of the songs themselves – repeated lines, a few phrases borrowed from older blues. Both provided entry points to his new songs.

“To me there's always been a mystique attached to those three tunings and those three performers,” Farrar says. “So I was compelled to get inside those tunings and see what was there. Skip James' tuning in particular, supposedly has its origins in the Bahamas, it's a D-Minor tuning, so it has built into it kind of an intangible haunting effect. Something you can't quite put your finger on but it's there.”

Those entry points mean that Notes of Blue features far more fingerpicking than previous Son Volt albums, and even (a nod to Fred McDowell), the bellowing, rambunctious slide of “Static.”

“All of that was the target,” Farrar says with his wry, concise clarity, “but the arrow landed somewhere between Tom Petty and ZZ Top.”

Add one more piece, the almost feral blues of the George Mitchell field recordings. “All the performers are unheralded,” Farrar says, “and yet compelling.”

Belleville (where Uncle Tupelo grew up) is not St. Louis is not Ferguson, but we in flyover country are by now accustomed to our role in the greater society. We provide wheat and corn and fuel, a migratory labor force. The occasional spectacle.

And yet Jay Farrar seems nearly at peace with all of it. “Yeah, there's a glimmer of hope,” he says. “What I get from the blues is that there's a chance for redemption. Whether this record achieves that is anyone's guess.”
Anders Parker
Anders Parker
Anders Parker of Varnaline, Gob Iron and also of the collective band New Multitudes, currently #1 on Billboard's Heatseekers. Anders will be performing an array of his music from over the years.

ROLLING STONE REVIEW: Anders Parker, the singer-songwriter formerly known as Varnaline, has crafted a resolute set of songs that moves fluidly from rugged country-indie to scorched-earth rockers to frosted cabin-in-the-woods-style ballads. Tell It to the Dust is bursting with cameos, including Kendall Meade (Mascott) and Jay Farrar (Son Volt), both of whom especially lend credence to Parker's already elemental songs. "Keep Me Hanging On" is one of those songs that's so perfect, it seems more born than written; Parker's dry, slightly bruised vocals stirs up Meade's supple, simple alto until they match the same emotional pitch. "Doornail (Hats Off to Buster Keaton)" is a maelstrom of a song that leaves blisters in its wake. Tell It to the Dust is Parker's obvious bid for recognition -- and proof that he should get it. (MARGARET WAPPLER)

on New Multitudes JAY FARRAR, WILL JOHNSON, ANDERS PARKER AND YIM YAMES PAY HOMAGE TO WOODY GUTHRIE ON "NEW MULTITUDES" – Like a cadre of musical brothers finally coalescing after years on the road apart, Jay Farrar (Son Volt, Gob Iron, Uncle Tupelo), Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel), Anders Parker (Varnaline, Gob Iron) and Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket, Monsters of Folk) gratefully deliver New Multitudes, an intimate interpretation of American icon and musical legend Woody Guthrie's previously unrecorded lyrics.

Set to coincide with the centennial celebration of Woody Guthrie's birth year, New Multitudes is being released on Rounder Records as a 12 track release and a 23 track deluxe, limited edition. The limited edition features original Guthrie lyric sheets, the 12 track release, and 11 additional compositions recorded by Farrar and Parker.

Under the invitation of Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter, to tour the Guthrie archives, each of the four songwriters were offered the chance to plumb and mine the plethora of notebooks, scratch pads, napkins, etc. for anything that might inspire them to lend their voices and give the words new life.

"These guys worked on an amazing group of lyrics" says Nora. "Much of it was culled from Woody's times in L.A. Lyric wise, it's a part of the story that is still mostly unknown. From Woody's experiences on LA's skid row to his later years in Topanga Canyon, they are uniquely intimate, and relate two distinctly emotional periods in his life."

The spirit of Guthrie may have been involved in more ways than one, as all four songwriters mentioned the immediate connection to the songs they chose, or as they would suggest, "chose them." The writing came together quickly, as if the mischief muse who originally penned them latched himself to each writer's grey matter upon first contact.

Musically, it is this sense of collaboration that makes New Multitudes not just another trite and traditional acoustic regurgitation of back porch blues. From the ragged jangle of its opening track, "Hoping Machine", the loping lilt of "Fly High", the floorboard stomp of "No Fear", to the lush warmth and sudden sonic gut punch of "My Revolutionary Mind" the cohorts deliver a lesson in discovering a song's sweet spot. It's the function and preparedness of each artist's dogged work ethic gleaned the old-fashion way; veracious songs, road weary odometers, and sweat stained live shows, all attributes of the man they are honoring.
Venue Information:
The Crocodile
2200 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA, 98121
http://www.thecrocodile.com/