The Current | November 16, 1998
Same formula gives Son Volt another hit
Wide Swing Tremolo
Son Volt's latest release follows the old rule of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Although some of the tracks on Wide Swing Tremolo hint at a slight departure in the band's sound, the remaining songs stick closely to the same formula that brought the group wide critical acclaim on its first two releases, Trace and Straightaways.
The sole songwriter for the band, vocalist/guitarist Jay Farrar, has for the most part kept intact the hybrid of rock/country/folk melodies that characterize Son Volt's music. This time around, however, Farrar has toned down the country music influence featured so prominently in the band's previous projects in favor of a more up-tempo, garage-rock sound. Tracks such as "Straightface," "Driving the View" and "Question" highlight this edgier new aspect, sounding reminiscent of some of R.E.M.'s earliest work.
The rest of the tracks remain truer to form for Son Volt. The melodies are a little mellower, and the instrumentation is more intricate, with Farrar and cohorts Jim and Dave Boquist throwing in liberal doses of lap and steel guitars, dulcimers and fiddles. The results are blues- and folk-laden songs such as "Medicine Hat" and "Right on Through."
Wide Swing Tremolo, with its variety of tempos and styles, isn't easy to classify. It is, however, a deft blend of musical influences that shows off Son Volt's ability to evolve without losing its best qualities.
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