Connect with us


Album Review: Son Volt ‘Union’

Son Volt’s latest finds them chewing on memorable melodies.

Brogan McCuen



I first came across Son Volt back in my vinyl-slinging days when a customer requested them and I thought that with a name like that they must some crazy metal band, like Sunn O))).

They are not. The only similarity they have is that they both calm me down — but in totally different ways, so, how much does that count anyway? Their ninth studio album, Union, was released on March 29 on the Transmit Sound label, almost 25 years after their 1995 debut, Trace.

Son Volt is an alt country band, and I’ll admit that I didn’t even know what that entailed before listening to their music. I learned that these folks, especially the lead singer/songwriter/ guitarist Jay Farrar are, deep down, inspired by punk, which made no sense to me until I squinted my ears and noticed two distinct similarities: the mostly short song lengths and the political lyrical content.

One song that typifies this perfectly is the one minute, 23-second song, “Lady Liberty:” “Lady Liberty, are you still here? Can you see us now?” Farrar chants.

My favorite song on this LP is “Broadsides.” It is just rough enough, especially with the background organ adding an extra touch of grittiness. It flows from the smooth, gentle lyrical bits to a drawling instrumental motif, and Son Volt keeps it simple by having only those two oscillating parts hypnotizing you throughout.

Another thing I like about this album is its gentle singability, like the chorus, “99 percent, 99 percent, it’s a trickle-down world when you’re stuck in cement.” In fact, I have gotten the refrain from “The 99” stuck in my head multiple times.

Songs like that and “Rebel Girl” remind me of Irish minstrel songs that have stripped down instrumentation and singers who are primarily storytellers, as opposed to face-melting vocalists. I think this is why this album calms me. Sonically, it is very easy to listen to, and lyrically, it gives you something to chew on.

If someone had told me that this was a solo project by John Michael Stipe, I would believe them, without question. I actually had to check the artist again once or twice during my first listen of “Lady Liberty,” and that song is less than a minute and a half long! The way he sings the descending “he-ee-ere” is so R.E.M.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Brogan is a Seattle Pacific University graduate who majored in Creative Writing (with a creative non-fiction concentration) and minored in Music. She is also a karaoke host, a pole athlete, and the lead singer of a classic rock cover band. After working at an e-commerce record store for two years, she shifted her focus to incorporate her writing inclinations with her musical background (plus, her roommates were tired of hearing about the Dilla sample that Miike Snow used in "My Trigger"). Enter: CMN.

CMN Music

Music4 days ago

Album Review: Tamino – ‘Amir (Deluxe)’

An expanded edition that offers poetic drama from beginning to end.

Music3 weeks ago

What Makes A Scary Song? Three Things Every Spooky Tune Needs

Genuinely scary sounds, an unsettling story, or just party jams with eerie sound effects?

Music3 weeks ago

React: Paste Magazine’s Best Albums of the 2010’s List

It's difficult for any one person to approach a list with complete objectivity,

CMN Vibes3 weeks ago

CMN Vibes: Spooky Season

The only playlist you'll need as Halloween gets closer.

Music1 month ago

4 Places to Read Great Music Journalism

Where to find great, free music writing and journalism on the web.

Essentials2 months ago

Four Useful Spotify Features for Music Writers: Part One

Tips, tricks and cool shortcuts to deepen your knowledge.

Music2 months ago

‘We’ll Carry On’: Examining the Legacy of Rock in the 2000s

The seeds planted by these bands are the reason rock will thrive for generations.

Music2 months ago

Man Arrested in Connection of Death of Rapper Mac Miller

28 year old Cameron James Pettit was arrested today on allegations of supplying deceased rapper Mac Miller with lethal drugs....

Music2 months ago

5 Things You’ll Quickly Learn After Moving From the USA to New Zealand

So you graduate college without any real career plan and decide to spend a year bartending so you can travel...

Music3 months ago

Review: Captain Beefheart, “Hair Pie: Bake 2”

An odd intrigue.

Essentials3 months ago

4 Podcasts Every Music Writer Should be Familiar With

Music journalists these days need to listen to a whole lot more than just music.

Music3 months ago

Cocaine and Rhinestones – Breaking Down Merle Haggard’s ‘Okie from Muskogee’

Tyler Mahan Coe brings the facts and the feel of history.

Music3 months ago

Track Review: Pool Kids – ‘$5 Subtweet’

Diving into a new age of confrontation.

by , SUNY Brockport
Music3 months ago

Hip-Hop’s Most Influential Artists of the Last Half -Decade

Drake, Migos, Travis Scott and more make the list.

by , SUNY Brockport
Music3 months ago

Podcast Review: The Needledrop: How To Get Into Death Grips

Dominick Rabrun joins Anthony Fantano for some intense chat.

Music3 months ago

Liily: Aiming to Turn the Music Industry Upside Down

California band is on the way up and has new music due out this fall.

Music3 months ago

Interview with Singer Natalie Clark

A CMN Q&A that touches on playing guitar, growing up in Glasgow, and being starstruck on 'The Voice.'

Essentials3 months ago

5 Essential Websites for Music Journalists

Great sources to confirm facts or come up with story ideas.

Music3 months ago

Brockhampton Announces New Album and Releases New Song

Brockhampton announced that their new album Ginger will be available on all platforms August 23. The budding rap group simultaneously...

Music3 months ago

Hot 100 Hometown Heat Map: Which State Makes the Most Hits?

Find where your favorite music comes from.

Music3 months ago

Podcast Review: ‘This Sounds Better’

A great podcast that covers key points important to engineers and producers.

by , Albright College
Music3 months ago

Podcast Review: Machine Gun Kelly on the CMN Podcast

Professional and informative.

by , SUNY Brockport

Great Reads

1 Step 1

Copyright © 2019 College Media Network