Jay Farrar has spent the last 20 years perfecting boring. His time in iconic alt-country band Uncle Tupelo with Jeff Tweedy produced the band's more unremarkable tunes, and both his Son Volt and solo ventures were equally yawn-inducing, with the exception of Son Volt's promising debut, Trace.
This new release, the band's sixth, is Farrar's least energetic work yet. The 12 songs verge on inert, and singing is beginning to sound like a painful act for him. His lyrics, however, are inspired. Cocaine And Ashes reflects on Keith Richards, Jukebox Of Steel on honky-tonk, When The Wheels Don't Move on industrial America. The production is big and gorgeous, and his newish band offers up engaged, shimmering performances.
For a guy with as many career ups and downs (and personnel calamities) as this, his gravitas is guaranteed genuine.
Top track: Jukebox Of Steel