Shortcuts—Sun Volt’s The Search

By Oliver Mosier

Sun Volt, one of two bands (along with Wilco) created by former members of Uncle Tupelo, has just released a new album. On The Search, Son Volt, still manages to retain its trademark sound despite turnover of nearly every band member excluding front man Jay Farrar.

Son Volt sounds much more like Uncle Tupelo did than Jeff Tweedy and Wildo ever did. Still, Tweedy and Farrar both fall into a distinct and rather exclusive list of elite singer-songwriters. Both cannot avoid their own individuality despite their presence in a band.

The Search provides the listener with interesting horn arrangements, and the electric guitar on tracks like “Action” converses casually with Farrar’s vocals. However, Sun Volt’s biggest problem is its similarity to early Tupelo. Nonetheless, The Search successfully melds alt-country and folk sounds with the more traditional sounds of rock and roll.

While he should not necessarily look to reject his roots, artistic risks would serve Farrar’s own musical maturation well. If the thread from Uncle Tupelo at times makes Son Volt sound mildly derivative, the songwriting of Farrar is the band’s saving grace. Tracks like “Highway and Cigarettes” and “Methamphetamine” are wonderful lyric portraits of America.

Perhaps it is fitting that Farrar remains so true to his roots. His music often elicits a beautiful sense of Americana. Farrar is most certainly a good enough musician to explore other avenues and with The Search he appears to have done so. He has not compromised his songwriting capabilities or foundations in Americana. The Search is a solid album running the spectrum from electric rock to the folk sounds of Appalachia.