The Austin Chronicle

Phases & Stages

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, July 3, 2009, Music

Son Volt

American Central Dust (Rounder)

Jay Farrar has long shared Neil Young's rustic vision of America, but never with the somber precision of American Central Dust. Son Volt's third album since Farrar reassembled the band in 2005 with Austin bassist Andrew Duplantis in tow, Dust kicks up a darkness that previously only surfaced on his solo work. Young's explicitly channeled on two piano dirges, "Cocaine and Ashes," which empathizes with Keith Richards' supposed snorting of his father's remains, and "Sultana," which describes the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history. The St. Louis quintet demonstrates its considerable country-rock flair in the sweet riffs of "Jukebox of Steel" and gently loping "Dust of Daylight," while Farrar's political side emerges on "When the Wheels Don't Move," a dusky ramble about rising gas prices that would make James McMurtry proud. Seldom uplifting, American Central Dust still reaffirms Son Volt's pinnacle atop today's American roots rockers.


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