On Son Volt's new record, "Union," past and present mingle to face the country's turbulent politics and demonstrate the comfort music can offer in times of tumult.
Son Volt is touring in support of "Union," with a stop scheduled in Songbirds on Saturday night, May 11.
Local fans of frontman Jay Farrar may remember him from his shows in the early 2000s at the old Rhythm & Brews, not to mention Farrar's days with Uncle Tupelo. This will be Farrar's first performance in Songbirds.
"I probably booked this show six months ago," says Mike Dougher, Songbirds entertainment coordinator. "The band is based around Jay's great songwriting and is extremely well-respected in the music community."
Songbirds' audience will be among the first to hear the new music on "Union." Farrar said in a phone interview he returned to his roots in folk music to confront the current political climate.
"For me, having grown up in an environment where folk music was commonplace, it seemed natural to return to those roots. I grew up listening to Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd, when music used to be more of a conscience," he explains, adding lyrics from "Sweet Home Alabama" (In Birmingham they love the Gov'nor) as an example.
Initially intended to be an entirely political statement, "Union" morphed into a combination of politically inspired material balanced by songs reflecting the power of love, time and music.
Farrar said that it took him a couple of months to write all of its songs. He credits activist Joe Hill for the lyrics to "Rebel Girl."
"I started with a focus to drill down on topical songwriting. Midway through, I realized I needed to balance things out. There's always a danger of being strident, but topical songwriting has to live over time. I felt like balance would be the best approach."
Eight of the songs on "Union" were recorded at places associated with two figures in American history who Farrar says "made a difference:" labor activist Mary Harris "Mother" Jones and American troubadour Woody Guthrie. Three songs were laid down at the Mother Jones Museum in Mount Olive, Illinois, while four were recorded at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"I find inspiration in the work of Woody Guthrie, and recorded some songs at the Woody Guthrie Center to highlight his contributions and to be a field trip for me to learn more about him and be inspired," explains Farrar.
Farrar says that the Songbirds audience will hear a "heavy dose of 'Union,' Saturday night," as well as songs pulled from the entire Son Volt catalog.
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.
If you go
› Where: Songbirds Guitar Museum, 35 Station St. (S), 41 Station St. (N)
› More info: 423-531-2473
AN EVENING WITH CIDADA RHYTHM WITH OLIVER WOOD
› When: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9 (N)
› Admission: $20
NASHVILLE P WITH TURBO AC’S
› When: 9 p.m. Thursday, May 9 (S)
› Admission: $18
REIGNWOLF WITH WELLES
› When: 7 p.m. Friday, May 10 (N)
› Admission: $15 in advance, $20 day of show
STONED COLD FOX WITH JOEY WINSLETT BAND
› When: 9 p.m. Friday, May 10 (S)
› Admission: $12.
LUCY DACUS FEATURING MOTHERS
› When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 11 (N)
› Admission: $12 in advance, $15 day of show
SON VOLT FEATURING IAN NOE
› When: 9 p.m. Saturday, May 11 (S)
› Admission: $20 in advance, $23 day of.
CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO
› When: 7 p.m. Sunday, May 12 (N)
› Admission: $25