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Published: 2006/06/22
by Randy Ray

Son Volt 6 String Belief LIVE

With the avalanche of critical acclaim for Jeff Tweedys Wilco, his origins in Uncle Tupelo The alt-country outfit can sometimes be obscured by the lazy brush of history. Former Tupelo member, Jay Farrars decade-plus project, Son Volt, has painted its own fine strokes of songs while attempting to fold a genre back upon itself with a dense mixture of grunge, Tom Petty, Neil Young and later on Radiohead. I was a big fan of the live music renaissance in the 1990s, not the least of which was a bands tendency to remove itself historically from the horridly vapid studio shrink wrap insanity of dated 80s pretty things gumbo. When bands stripped down and went acoustic or alternative or, in the case of the Twin Towers of a Dirty Little Secret Tweedy and Farrar rode alt-country and in so doing formed a whole new interesting sub layer of alternate alt-country rock.
The new live DVD, 6 String Belief LIVE is a huge heaping of heavy overview from Farrar encompassing 31 songs over two hours while a career-wide sketch is made. Unfortunately, the talented songwriter just doesnt bring the heat or charisma in this ill-advised live event. Early on, Farrar acknowledges that the gig is being filmed and states that he doesnt want to have to do it over. Fine, but those nerves that restrain one from complete expression also appear to cripple the guitarist somewhat as if he just cant shake the IM ON CAMERA vibe while attempting definitive Greatest Hits songs.
Now, dont get me wrongmany of these songs are some of my all-time faves but hearing them back-to-back and front-to-side, one cant help but feel a sludgy monotony and complacency in the sequencing as the story unfolds. However there are many highlights from the excellent band of Farrar on guitars, Dave Bryson, drums, Derry DeBorja, keyboards, Andrew Duplantis, bass and vocals, Chris Frame on guitar.
The show opens with a rousing VU as a quaalude country quintent on Who, Bandages & Scars and 6 String Belief a shit-kicker rocker in an early 70s Lou Reed vein. Atmosphere lives up to its name with a sweet, slow burn. Gramophone softly howls with Farrar on guitar and harp drifting through the dusty roads of country rock via Michael Stipe and Peter Buck before cascading into Joe Citizen Blues modern folk as silky driftwood. From there, we dip into the acoustic melodica and this is where the surprising turgidness of the set appears from Medicine with its cool melody to Damn Shame, which its hobbled stagecoach milieu to Feel Free with a moan for true will onto the wonderfully intoxicating knee-jerk of Barstow, which rises the broody mood with a very cool stumble step waltz groove.
Endless War appears later on with the best jam of the evening and illustrates the frustrating point of this quintet. While Farrar has crafted many fine and memorable chestnuts, the bands ability to lift the spine of a song into the stratosphere for a wee bit of improv seems sorely lacking in this setting. Perhaps, a little less precious petting and a little more kill your babies hatchery in the future may help this dilemma.

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