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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Son Volt brings new to the old

Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Mass., Sept. 30, 1998

By Jeffrey B. Remz

SOMERVILLE, MA - Playing a slew of new songs even before loyal fans is never easy to pull off, but in the case of alt.-country faves Son Volt Wednesday, that didn't present much of a problem at all.

With the band's third disc, "Wide Swing Tremolo," due next week, the quartet decided to hit the road anyway for a generally acoustic-flavored set.

That probably was a smart move, as doing so put frontman Jay Farrar's sonorous voice front and center without the music overwhelming the songs. Farrar et al were seated during the show until the first encore, giving an easy going quality to the evening.

While the new disc is said to be more rock-oriented and away from the country and roots flavorings, that did not prove to be the case during the 90-minute show before a packed house.

The opener "Medicine Hat" possessed a strong melody line, while the harder-edged Flow" a few songs later still showed a strong country sound.

Overall, Son Volt played nine new songs. While seemingly not all that different from the songs found on the first two albums, that also underscored a problem during the concert There was a bit too much sameness to the affair. The songs were generally well-performed and well-written, but aside form Dave Boquist alternating from guitar to fiddle to lap steel - all of which truly spiced the music - at times, the listener had the feeling of deja vu all over again.

That changed during the encore where the group rocked through several new songs ("Right On Through," "Driving the View" and "Question") along with "Caryatid Easy," the most played song on radio from the "Straightaways" CD.

While the band grew out of the ashes of Uncle Tupelo, no UT songs were played.

But they brought it back home on the second encore with a Stanley Brothers song, once again emphasizing the country roots of this band.

The songs were there. Variety could have been more plentiful and as usual, this is a band of ultra few words.

Son Volt is not going to win any new fans based on their charisma quotient, but they should not have lost any either despite emphasizing many unheard songs.