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No charisma equals no problem for Son Volt

Paradise, Boston, September 23, 2009

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
Son Volt's Jay Farrar is unlikely to win any awards for his charisma and stage presence. However, that does not mean Farrar and company are incapable of putting on a very ingratiating, musically solid show because that's exactly what happened in a show of country and rootsy songs.

Farrar has not changed all that much over the years. He came on stage with the rest of Son Volt and started right in singing. At one point, it seemed like he was going to rival Dylan for the amount of words spoken.

Son Volt played a lot of material from their very fine new CD, "American Central Dust" during their meaty two-hour set (Cocaine and Ashes was a highlight). At times, the songs were outright country, sometimes they were more rootsy and other times still they rocked more. The country bent was far more apparent than in recent visits as they capped off the evening with a good version of Waylon Jennings' Are You Sure Hank Done It this Way?

Farrar, who switched between acoustic and electric guitar, has a bit of a nasally voice that he utilized well. Despite his lack of interacting with the crowd, he, in fact, showed a good amount of emotion and substance into the delivery of the songs. That happened time and again during the evening. You can tell he cared about the songs and song craft.

This version of Son Volt was also very strong with Mark Spencer on keyboards and pedal steel a huge huge standout. He added a lot of spark to the songs. At times, he played pedal, while at the same time, Chris Masterson traded in his electric (and he ripped off a number of good guitar leads as well on this evening) for lap steel. There were plenty of good sounds emanating from this group.

Son Volt cooked time and again with the show only getting better as it went on. This was a case where the sum may have been better than the individual parts.

Farrar may not be the most exuberant front man out there, but he more than made up for it with a slew of sturdy songs and band for a night of excellent music.

Sera Cahoone, a Seattle-based singer, opened with a very good set complimenting the headliners. Cahoone has a good voice and was aided by a pedal steel player Jason Kardong to give the music a country, rootsy feel. Cahoone could have developed better stage patter with the crowd, but like the headliner, her music was stronger than the spoken part.