Music is still a learning experience for Jay Farrar after more than 30 years in the business.
For Son Volt’s latest album, Notes of Blue, the frontman dove headfirst into inspirational tunings and the finger-picking guitar style.
“It shows up here and there throughout the recording,” Farrar says. “I also wanted to focus on playing the electric guitar. This was a chance to reconnect with the electric guitar. As part of that, I brought out an old amplifier I used on Trace, the first Son Volt record. Actually, the amplifier appears on the cover of the Son Volt Trace record.
Notes of Blue was inspired by the blues and the stylings of legends like Skip James, Nick Drake and Mississippi Fred McDowell. Notes of Blue is set deep in tradition, but maintains the roots rock that’s become synonymous with Son Volt—just add a little Southern soul, primal rhythms and frenetic guitars.
The road to Notes of Blue began as two songwriting projects—one inspired by American folk blues, the other English acts like Drake.
“Ultimately, I felt like there was a commonality and purpose and common aesthetic there,” he says. “It’s all folk music in the end.
“A song like ‘Cairo and Southern,’ that’s an instance of where I found out there was a convergence of the English influence, folk and the American blues influence.”
Farrar, who founded Uncle Tupelo with Jeff Tweedy in 1987, sees his career as a “long journey.” After a stint on his own, he is happy to be back in his band. He wants to see where it’ll go, as he’s been writing songs since November.
“I hope to start doing some recording, probably over the summer and see how it shakes out,” Farrar says.
“I’ve been doing more topical songwriting. I’ve been looking at the news every day and thinking, ‘What would Woody Guthrie have to say right now?’ I feel like, these days, it’s time for artists to get to work, no matter what your medium is—music or visual art. It’s time to get down to work for sure.”
Son Volt and Justin Townes Earle with The Sadies, The Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Avenue, Phoenix, 602.716.2222, crescentphx.com, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 29, sold out.