Alt-Country originator, Jay Farrar comes to Heights Theater with Son Volt

February 27, 2017 GMT

In his mission to bring a curated line-up for discerning music audiences to his renovated theater-turned-music venue, Edwin Cabaniss is staying true to his word by hosting Son Volt at the Heights Theater March 5.

The group, fronted by Jay Farrar, one of the founding members of Uncle Tupelo that also spawned Wilco from its co-founder Jeff Tweedy when the band broke up in 1994, is touring in support of their new album “Notes of Blue.”

Farrar is an alt-country icon, often cited as a progenitor of the genre, yet not as widely celebrated as Tweedy who reaped more commercial success (some say by harvesting most of Uncle Tupelo’s band members into Wilco).

But success means different things to different people - not to dismiss Tweedy who has made beautiful, voluminous albums with Wilco - yet Farrar continues to mine the depths of his life for inspiration as well mixed genres of music and instrumentation as he marches forward with Son Volt into their second decade.

The latest release from Son Volt is a 10-track, tightly-knit assortment of gifts to the entire style of music known as the blues and all its tributaries from a songwriter who managed to do so despite opening the album with a decidedly non-blues track.

“Promise the World” is, on the surface, more 1970s-California rock, but the guitar feels like feet across a dusty dance hall during a lazy two-step, and the backing strings and melodic vocals are an uplifting sermon about getting up after dark lows.

He moves on with “Back Against the Wall” and the guidance of someone who’s seen some heartbreak and disappointment.

“What survives the long, cold winter will be stronger and can’t be undone. With this back against the wall all will soon be revealed,” he says.

There are digressions into garage rock, folk, alt-country that will satisfy the indie, mid-90s longing in the right demographic and an Americana-inspired, “Kaw-Liga”-reminiscent tune called “Cherokee St.,” which is the name of an actual street in Farrar’s hometown of St. Louis, Mo.

He dives head-first into American blues with “The Storm” and “Cairo and Southern” without landing anywhere near too on the nose.

“Been in this storm so long ... Spent all my money on whiskey and women, when I get to California I’ll be fine,” he sings on top of acoustic guitars in “The Storm.”

Son Volt could make an impression in almost any venue, but The Heights Theater with its hand-picked showcases, small standing room and slim balcony supplies the reverential atmosphere Farrar has created on “Notes of Blue.”