Memphis gets a jolt of Son Volt

Son Volt

Young Avenue Deli

Memphis, Tennessee

May 9, 2007


No matter the spin you try to put on it, the music industry is pretty bleak these days.  In an era of cotton candy, cookie cutter artists who either don’t write their own music or are too focused on noodling away during their next self-indulgent ten minute guitar solo, a guy like Jay Farrar is in a very small class. 

He’s a musician who actually puts focus on the songwriting, a skill Farrar put on display when he brought the new line-up of Son Volt to Memphis.

With new guitarist Chris Masterson in place of Brad Rice, Son Volt played their gritty brand of alt-country to a packed crowd at the Young Avenue Deli.

As Jay Farrar’s smoky tenor droned out the first notes of "Satellite," it was obvious that this was a band who was comfortable with their current state, even though Masterson was relatively new to the group. 

Touring behind their new album The Search, the early part of the set list was new stuff, not so surprising.  Aside from the second song of the set, "Who," and a searing "Jet Pilot," both off of 2005’s Okemah and the Melody of Riot, the band spent the first hour or so giving the new tunes a work-out for the Memphis crowd.  The audience hung on every riff from Masterson’s guitar and every phrase turned by Farrar, eating up songs such as "Underground Dream" and "Highways and Cigarettes."

Farrar pulled out material from his Sebastopol, much to the delight of the crowd.  With Okemah‘s slide-drenched "Medication" stuck in the midst, he belted out great versions of "Voodoo Candle," "Damn Shame," and a phenomenal "Barstow."

With the requisite display of the new songs mostly done, the band reached into its back catalog with classics like "Tear-Stained Eye" and a rocking version of "Drown."


While a Son Volt concert is generally regarded as the Jay Farrar show, Chris Masterson was great.  Brad Rice left some big shoes to fill, and Masterson did so quite admirably.  Generally it takes a few tours before a musician, especially a lead guitarist, finds a comfort zone within an established band.  However, Masterson meshed well with his bandmates, and that made for an outstanding show.

photos by Josh Mintz /