Son Volt Take the Road to The Bowery Ballroom

June 17th, 2013

Son Volt – The Bowery Ballroom – June 14, 2013

The Bowery Ballroom would never be described as a honky-tonk, but when Son Volt rolled through town, treating Friday night’s sold-out crowd to songs from their latest record, the aptly titled Honky Tonk, New York City got a little taste of the twangy Western swing made popular at those titular roadside joints. Making good use of Gary Hunt on the mandolin and fiddle and Mark Spencer on steel guitar, Son Volt frontman Jay Farrar expressed timeless country themes, namely, heartbreak and the power of the open road, in new songs “Bakersfield,” “Brick Walls” and “Wild Side.”

But even though Honky Tonk finds Son Volt honing in on classic Americana themes and country-music styles, Friday’s set wasn’t just about an acoustic aesthetic. The band equally relished performing harder rocking numbers like “Drown” and “Bandages and Scars,” songs that cement the alt in alt-country, a genre in which they found a sturdy foothold during their formation. Of course, even in their early days, Son Volt explored many of the same themes as they do in the new material.

Performing “Windfall,” a mid-’90s ode to getting away and “trying to make it far enough to the next time zone,” Farrar plaintively sang, “May the wind take your troubles away/ Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel/ May the wind take your troubles away.” Over the years, this restless spirit has made Farrar a veteran of the road and served as inspiration for countless Son Volt lyrics and songs. Hopefully that road leads him back to these parts again, where our pseudo-honky-tonks will welcome the band with open arms and raised glasses. —Alena Kastin