Son Volt, Jason Walker, Fallon Cush @ Factory Theatre, Oct 18th, 2017
Locals Fallon Cush had a short opening slot but they made the most of it, showcasing songs from their brand new album Morning and making a strong case for them being the most in-form country-rock band in Sydney at the moment. Cascading melodies and harmonies with classic Americana/power pop sounds had them sounding right at home on the big stage.
Jason Walker also used the larger setting to play with his full band. He reminded us how strong his most recent solo album is with its timeless sounding songs and emotional poise. A fine cover of Long White Line (recently popularised by Sturgill Simpson) was a great inclusion, while between songs Walker recalled touring with Jay Farrar back in the 90s in Europe, appreciating the full-circle moment.
Jay Farrar was the other key member of seminal alt-country band Uncle Tupelo, with Jeff Tweedy. While the latter went on to see how far he could reimagine country music, Farrar has steadfastly worked within the rock walls of alt-country music.
Son Volt work with a narrow sonic palette. Sure it’s the configuration of bass, drums, two or three guitars, keys and pedal steel that so many bands work with but they have such a defined sound that they excel by not straying from it. A casual fan might find that impregnable over a 90 minute set but the devoted fans in the somewhat sparse audience were enthralled. Farrar is there to play and deliver the songs with a workmanlike precision. There was little talk between songs and from behind his sunglasses he delivered the songs with little outward emotion, which did provide some detachment from the audience but did nothing to dilute the impressive playing of the band and the strength of the band’s back catalogue. Cherokee Street Girl and a mesmerising Cairo and Southern showed the strength of their new material while seminal Son Volt songs such as Windfall, Drown and Route instigated middle-aged dancing and flooded back memories of the burgeoning mid-90s scene where widescreen country met punk rock and ragged rock ’n’ roll.