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Okemah and the Melody of Riot

Son Volt

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Album Review

While there was never much question that Jay Farrar was the guiding light behind Son Volt, he's managed to extinguish any lingering doubts about that issue with Okemah and the Melody of Riot, his first album under the Son Volt handle since 1998's Wide Swing Tremolo. While Okemah sure sounds and feels like a Son Volt album, as it happens Farrar is the only musician in the band's new lineup who had ever played with Son Volt before, which for good or ill firmly establishes him as the sole architect of the group's musical approach. While it's anyone's guess why Farrar turned from his solo career back to the Son Volt format (especially since it's obvious Farrar is the man in charge under either circumstance), whatever the billing the results are impressive — Okemah and the Melody of Riot is a compelling, strongly focused work that stands as Farrar's best music since Son Volt's debut album, 1994's Trace. While Farrar's songwriting is still in his usual enigmatic mode on Okemah, there is a noticeably stronger lyrical focus here, especially on the (apparently) anti-Bush screeds "Jet Pilot" and "Ipecac" and the rabble-rousing opening cut, "Bandages & Scars"; Farrar obviously has something to say about the state of post-millennial America, and if the letter of the message is vague, the passion of his delivery speaks volumes. And while Farrar's solo albums had an unfortunate habit of meandering, Okemah thankfully sounds muscular and driven, with Farrar and Brad Rice bringing a healthy share of guitar firepower to the songs and bassist Andrew DuPlantis and drummer Dave Bryson charging the songs with lean but sinewy force. If much of Jay Farrar's music since the breakup of Uncle Tupelo sounds like the work of a man looking for a fresh direction and a true sound, Okemah and the Melody of Riot finds him with a firm grasp of his talent and a fresh reserve of conviction; it's a bracing and welcome return to form for an important artist.

Customer Reviews

great but hard to live up to a classic

Jay is clearly the creative force driving Son Volt. But, I miss the Boquist (Banjo, fiddle, guitar, and pedal steel) touch from their first three albums. Check out the pedal steel solo on Creosote from their album Straightaways. It doesnt get sweeter then that. And thats part of the problem. Okemah is a very good album, but Son Volt set the bar so high with the first three albums its not fair to compare. As it stands on its own, its great album. Worth the download.

Best Album Since Trace

I'm a tough critic, but I think there are some all-time classics on this record like Afterglow 61, Jet Pilot and Medication (which reminds me of The End by the Doors). This is their best record since Trace. Highly recommend it.

Indeed best work since Trace (maybe even better)

Great song craft and musicianship throughout this album. Jay's voice is perfect in the mix. Wonderful guitar work. The song "Jet Pilot" is an amazing indictment of President Bush

Biography

Formed: 1994 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

After touring in support of their 1993 masterpiece, Anodyne, the seminal alternative country band Uncle Tupelo split up over long-simmering creative differences between co-leaders Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy. Tweedy recruited much of the band to form Wilco, while Farrar teamed up with original Tupelo drummer Mike Heidorn to form Son Volt, the more tradition-minded of the two Tupelo offshoots. Joined by brothers Jim (bass) and Dave Boquist (guitar, fiddle, banjo, fiddle, steel guitar), the band signed...
Full Bio

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