It’s been more than twenty years since Son Volt released their debut album Trace, but much of the band’s devoted following dates back even further. Founder Jay Farrar first connected with listeners as one-half of Uncle Tupelo, a band that pioneered the style now known as alt-country in the early 1990s. This month, Son Volt is back with Union, their first full-length album since 2017’s Notes of Blue.
The album is political from the outset; Farrar says songs like “The 99” and “As Rome Burns” plucked inspiration directly from headlines. The title track came to Farrar when he stopped to think about why he felt compelled to write about today’s civic landscape. “There is a cultural divide, but the differences really aren’t that great. It’s easy to pick one side and just run with it,” he says. “This was my way of saying there’s a better way.”
Union offers lighthearted moments, too. “I tried to think of what originally inspired me to begin to play music,” Farrar says. The cavalier attitudes of the Replacements and the Rolling Stones spurred him to write “Devil May Care,” while the twelve-string guitar on “The Reason” took cues from Tom Petty and the Byrds. “Lyrically, I was thinking about the ambivalence of watching one’s kids set out as adults, knowing that they’ll encounter trials they have to go through,” Farrar says of “The Reason,” which offers bits of encouragement (“Give your best and take flight / Use your smile as your shield”) that make it a bright spot on the album. “Having a sense of humor about things will serve you well as you go through life.”
Union is set for release on March 29 and available for pre-order now, but G&G is delighted to offer an exclusive listen before release day. Stream the album in its entirety below.