The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Don’t get your hopes up.
“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

Today’s free stuff is a musical tip.
But bear in mind that everything has a cost. In this case the cost is your time. I hope that it’s time well spent.

I don’t much go into music on this site. Maybe because it’s such a personal thing. It palpates the emotions. Music is a spiritual thing. For some it’s a religion and as often happens with religion the discussion sometimes becomes fiercely judgmental and defensive. So I often just avoid musical discussion like I avoid religion.

Recently though I got to thinking about music as a topic when I had a short exchange of comments with author/blogger Eden Baylee. Along with her fictional work, she does a weekly piece titled Music Monday, the most recent featuring Bruce Springsteen’s “One Step Up.

I like Springsteen so I looked into Eden’s archives and found a piece that featured Springsteen’s early classic Born to Run, a favorite of mine. I commented to Eden that it was during those early days that Springsteen was touted as “the next Bob Dylan.”

I went on to make the offhand suggestion that maybe Jay Farrar could be the next Bob Dylan.

Not many people have heard of Jay Farrar, at least not nearly as many as have heard of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. So your free stuff for this episode is Son Volt.

Jay Farrar, 54 years old and calling St. Louis home, started out as the front guy for a band named Uncle Tupelo. After Uncle Tupelo disbanded, he formed the alternative rock/country band Son Volt in 1994. In recent years he’s performed and recorded both solo and with Son Volt.

I first heard Son Volt on a Sirius Bluegrass station and was immediately taken with what has become the band’s standard, Tear Stained Eye.

An article in Magnet Magazine called Tear Stained Eye, one of the best songs by anyone ever. It isn’t of course. Not any one song is the best song ever, at least not generally speaking. The statement was one guy’s momentary excitement – or maybe just click bait. For me though it is one of the best songs written by anyone ever.

Maybe less hyperbolic, Americana Magazine says of Son Volt, (their songs are) “instrumentally rich, full of tempo changes, and lyrically deep,”

After first hearing Tear Stained Eye I played the shit out of it, fascinated by the lyrics and enchanted by Eric Heywood’s dolorous pedal steel.
Walking down Main Street getting to know the concrete
Looking for a purpose from a neon sign
I would meet you anywhere, western sun meets the air
We’ll hit the road, never looking behind. ~ Excerpted from Tear Stained Eye.

The next Bob Dylan? What’s the standard? Voice? Song writing? Social influence?
And which Bob Dylan? Ever since he surfaced in 1961 he’s gone through a handful of iterations and spanned a rainbow of genres.

I was shooting from the hip when I mentioned Jay Farrar in my comment to Eden.
He certainly has a distinctive voice and, like Dylan, his style and his lyrics are both poetic and thought provoking.
In 2019 Son Volt released the album Union which follows the traditions of Woody Guthrie and early Bob Dylan. The entire work takes up social injustice and particularly excoriates the Trump Administration.
Lady Liberty’s tears
May they wash away the prejudice
Lady Liberty sighs
At the words from the highest office
Lady Liberty’s eyes
See profiteering and pettiness ~ Excerpted from Lady Liberty.

Musically speaking I’m not a giant fan of Union. I do particularly like Reality Winner, which tells the story of the Air Force Intelligence Officer who leaked a report on Russian hacking to the press. As Farrar put it, “She leaked information for all the right reasons and is doing hard time right now. I hope the song brings awareness to her plight.”
Felt like gaslighting, not something to just accept
Proud to serve, just not this president
Those that seek the truth will find the answers
Those that seek the truth will find the answers ~ Excerpted from Reality Winner

In the end there is no “next Bob Dylan” and there won’t be. It all makes for nice cocktail party conversation but let Dylan be Dylan. And Springsteen and Farrar? Why saddle them or anyone else with the burden. They are who they are, as are all of the other “next Dylans”; let them light their own lights.

Like the man said, rode hard and put away wet
Throw away the bad news, and put it to rest
If learning is living, and the truth is a state of mind
You’ll find it’s better at the end of the line. ~ Excerpted from Tear Stained Eye.

For now, just enjoy Tear Stained Eye.


7 thoughts on “Fabulous Friday Free Stuff: Son Volt

  1. nickreeves says:

    ‘And which Bob Dylan?’ – perfect.
    I jumped the Wilco train after Uncle Tupelo; never looked back! Thanks for this pointer, I shall be giving Son Volt some attention.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thanks for reading an commenting.
      Spent the morning listening to Wilco. Hard to believe that Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy sprung from the same tree.

  2. eden baylee says:

    Haha Paul, this > “So I often just avoid musical discussion like I avoid religion.”

    Funny, I avoid religion but I have no problem with music discussions, though my main goal is to share it on my blog. People either like it or don’t. It’s not like I’m making royalties by sharing it. Heh.

    I like what I’ve heard from Jay Farrar, and this song is good. I admire the musicianship and lyricism. What I’m not sure about is his voice. I prefer something less twangy, but sometimes vocals grow on me.

    By the way, Springsteen’s latest album is really good. “Letter to You” is kind of heartbreaking, but hey, that’s okay too.

    Thanks for the mentions and the free advice. 🙂

    1. Paulie says:

      I’m actually thinking about doing a piece or two on my own religious experiences – grab that third rail firmly with both hands.

      I have a relatively high twang threshold. I guess it’s Neil Young who sends my twang-o-meter into the twangy danger zone. I wanted to like him and I think he’s brilliant but his voice – I just can’t.

      You once mulled over the notion of ever seeing concerts again. I think we will. No, I know we will. I have to know we will. I know we have to.

      I’m certain that I’m preaching to the choir (there’s that religion thing) when I say that concerts, not the big name, big stadium events, but the festivals and clubs are vital to music. These are the places that keep afloat the artists like Son Volt who are just above the radar (and Jay seems to be content with that place) and provide the showcase for talent that’s still under the radar.

      Every autumn in Golden Gate Park there is a three day festival called Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. It’s a half dozen stages spread out in the park featuring up and comers to relatively big names. Artists like Dwight Yoakam, Robert Plant and Emmylou Harris have played HSB but the bulk of the lineup is made up of artists who ply their craft in clubs.

      If music is to continue and if music is going to innovate we need concerts. Or am I being too dramatic?

  3. eden baylee says:

    HI Paul, a religious blog … that will be interesting *trepidatious smile*.

    I’m no fan of Neil Young. His voice is ok, but I really dislike his guitar, not his acoustic so much, but when he goes off on his electric solos, he’s just wanking.

    I think there will be concerts again, but who knows what they will look like in the future? I’m fine with the small venues and prefer them anyway. Stadium bands are not my thing anyway.

    Agree, we need concerts. Live music, small clubs, glass of whatever … one of life’s pleasures.

    1. Paulie says:

      Interesting – maybe. Blasphemous – likely.
      Another off topic. Have you ever read Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane?

      1. eden baylee says:

        Haha, Blasphemous is good. 😉 Yes, I like Lehane’s writing. I may have seen the film as well, which isn’t bad either.

Would love to hear from you

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