SON VOLT - “Union” CD Release Tour

Neighborhood Theatre & MaxxMusic present

SON VOLT - “Union” CD Release Tour

IAN NOE

Wed, May 8, 2019

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm (event ends at 10:45 pm)

Neighborhood Theatre

Charlotte, NC

$28 dos

$3 Under 21 Surcharge at Door (Valid ID required for entry into venue. Under 18 permitted with parent.)

Accepted forms of ID: State Issued ID or Driver's License, Military ID, Passport.

SON VOLT
SON VOLT
On Son Volt’s new record, Union, present and past mingle into strong confluence. The thirteen new songs written by founder Jay Farrar confront our turbulent politics and articulate the clarity and comfort music can offer in the tumult. “There are so many forces driving our country apart,” observes Farrar. “What can we do to bring our society back together?”

The country and blues sounds explored by Son Volt on its last two records (2013’s Honky Tonk and 2017’s Notes of Blue) linger in the grooves of Union. But the new record nods to many other mile markers along the band’s 25-year path. Some tunes offer a powerful return to the ringing lyrical clarity of 2005’s Okemah and the Melody of Riot and 2007’s The Search. Others hearken back to the freewheeling poetic melodicism of 1994’s Trace and 1997’s Straightaways.

“Broadsides will be hurled to capture the truth,” sings Farrar on the brooding and blues-driven song that takes its name from the one-page bulletins that used to spread both proclamations and ballads. And songs such as “The 99,” “While Rome Burns,” and “Lady Liberty” push up the acoustic guitar in the mix to underscore the enduring role of troubadours in troubled times. “A lot of these songs are songs of turmoil,” says Farrar. “Questioning what’s going on.”

On Union, Farrar taps into folk music’s rich lyrical legacy. It’s a tradition he has tapped often both in Son Volt and in Uncle Tupelo. “I was raised on folk music,” observes Farrar. “Politics is a common thread there. In a time where we see threats to our way of life, and our democracy, from within, you say: What can I do? I put pen to paper and write music.”

The chorus of Union’s title song was a “mantra” of James Paul ‘Pops’ Farrar, about whom Farrar has written so affectingly in his memoir, Falling Cars and Junkyard Dogs. “He thought the Israeli model was best,” says the songwriter. “Everybody serves in one capacity or another, and that was the best way to bring a country together. It did happen here in World War II. People of different spiritual and economic backgrounds brought together. And there was an immense period of prosperity after that – for a myriad of reasons, but the idea that all walks of life were working together is important.”
Union grounds its politics in startling images and portraits of the human costs of our divides. Guitar and organ commingle on “While Rome Burns” to underscore a connectedness in the way that “the freeways lead to the gravel roads, to the town squares and the rodeos.”

The mournful shuffling “Reality Winner” echoes direct protest songs such as “Hurricane” – Bob Dylan’s ode to boxer Rubin Carter, who was wrongly convicted of triple homicide in 1967. Winner is a former intelligence analyst who leaked a National Security Agency document that detailed Russian attempts to hack voting systems to the media. She was convicted of violating the Espionage Act and sentenced to five years and three months in prison.

“We have a reality TV show president,” Farrar says, “and we have this woman named Reality Winner, and they’re linked in a way. She represents everything that you want in an American, someone who’s learned three languages and does her part. She’s basically a whistleblower doing hard time. Maybe this song brings more awareness to her plight.”

A reinvigorated band chemistry anchors the new record, with new and returning members turning up in the Union mix. Longtime members Mark Spencer (piano, organ, acoustic slide, lap steel, backing vocals) and Andrew DuPlantis (bass, backing vocals) have been at the core of Son Volt’s recent work. Guitarist Chris
Frame – who toured with Son Volt in the Okemah era – rejoined the group for the Notes of Blue tour and plays on the new record. DuPlantis recruited fellow Austin musician Mark Patterson to play drums and percussion.

“We spent a lot of time together playing shows behind Notes of Blue,” says Farrar. “That time playing together coalesced into a sense of purpose.” The Son Volt leader’s return to playing acoustic guitar – after taking up electric guitar on the band’s last record – also had an impact. “I took a step back,” says Farrar. The space allowed Frame “to add a lot of guitar elements.” The result is “a different flavor and perspective.”

Initially, Farrar intended Union to be an explicitly political statement. “Midway through,” he says, “I realized I needed some balance on the record.” The result is a cluster of new songs that reflect on the power of love, time, and music to heal and sustain us. “Holding Your Own” builds to a shimmering and powerful climax of piano and electric guitar as it relays the hopes Farrar identifies in “watching kids grow up and find their place in society.”

“Slow Burn” is an ode to hope and resilience’s power to shake off darkness. The song’s piano chords pave a road out of futility and reminds listeners that “every tunnel reaches the light.” Another highlight on the record is “Devil May Care” – an ebullient celebration of the joys of playing music. Farrar strip-mined musical gear catalogues for the poetry in their terminology, reeling off lines like “harmonic fidelity boost high pass filter on a balanced line / Or a cigarette on a headstock, all the same just make it rhyme.”
The attitude of bands such as the early-era Replacements was present as he wrote the song. “That is the essence of what a band is,” he says. “You remember: Wait a minute: Music is supposed to make you throw your burdens to the wind, so I tried to include that approach as well.”

Eight of the thirteen songs on Union were recorded at places associated with two figures in American history who Farrar says “made a difference”: Renowned American labor activist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and quintessential American troubadour Woody Guthrie. Three songs were laid down at the Mother Jones Museum in Mount Olive, Illinois, while four others were recorded at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“I felt doing it in a more challenging environment might inspire us along the way,” says Farrar. “Doing mobile recordings was a way to push myself a little bit. It also pushed Jacob Detering, our engineer, who had to assemble a mobile unit and did a great job.”

Proximity to Guthrie and his legacy pushed strongly into Union’s closing song: “The Symbol.” The song’s point of origin was Guthrie’s 1948 poem “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos,” which was later set to music by composer Martin Hoffman and is best-known as “Deportee.” Guthrie wrote at a moment when “workers needed to work fields weren’t even considered as people,” observes Farrar.

In “The Symbol,” Farrar paints a compelling portrait of a Mexican man who helped rebuild New Orleans after Katrina and now finds himself buffeted by the wave of anti-immigration rhetoric and vengeful law enforcement.

Farrar says that the key to writing songs on topical issues that stand the test of time is to be a truthful observer. “‘Deportee’ made such a lasting impression on me,” he observes. “But it was written in the 1940s You have to give your own take. Say this is what happened. Even if it seems temporary. Hopefully it’s not.”
IAN NOE
IAN NOE
Rolling Stone Country - New Americana Artist You Need to Know: Ian Noe
Kentucky songwriter releases his Dave Cobb-produced debut ‘Between the Country’ on May 31st
“He possesses a deep understanding of people’s unyielding vices, underlying motives and destructive weaknesses, and rarely dons rose-colored glasses when morphing into the characters that make up Between the Country.”
“He’s unequivocally honest in these character sketches while still maintaining a sense of humanity..."
“…a stark, rich and organic sonic palette that echoes the hollers of Kentucky. It’s as though Noe dipped each song into a backwoods creek and wrung out the water to create one of the year’s most gripping and satisfying albums.”




Ian Noe draws on the day-to-day life of Eastern Kentucky on his debut album, Between the Country. Recorded in Nashville with unhurried production by Dave Cobb, these 10 original songs introduce a number of complicated characters, diverse in their own downfalls but bound together by Noe’s singular voice.

“I’ve always thought that Eastern Kentucky had a certain kind of sound, and I can’t really explain it any better than that,” he says. “What I was trying to do was write songs that sounded like where I was living.”

The lead track, “Irene (Ravin’ Bomb),” sets the tone for the album, telling the story of an alcoholic woman who fails to conceal her addiction from her family. Throughout the remaining tracks, family relationships are tested, bad decisions are inevitable, and more than a few people meet an untimely end. Titles like “Junk Town,” “Dead on the River (Rolling Down)” and “Meth Head” capture the dramatic situations faced by people in the region.

However, Between the Country is not necessarily an autobiographical album. Instead, Noe absorbed these harrowing experiences through people he’s met or stories he’s heard. Not yet 30, Noe was raised as the oldest of three children in Beattyville, Kentucky, where his parents still live in the house he grew up in. His father is a longtime youth social worker, while his mother has been employed by the same local factory for more than 20 years.

Noe learned to play guitar from his father and grandfather. As a young boy, he adored Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and spent years trying to emulate Berry’s way of playing guitar. Before long, Noe could pick country standards like “I Saw the Light” and “Wildwood Flower.” By his teen years, he gravitated to Bob Dylan and John Prine after discovering them through his family’s music collection. Neil Young soon became another favorite, along with Dwight Yoakam and Tom T. Hall, who hail from the same part of the state.

Noe says, “There’s a silence about Eastern Kentucky. It’s quiet, at least where I was raised. There are a lot of places you can go and write and listen to music and not be bothered.”

All through his childhood, his great aunt often asked Noe if he’d written any songs yet. By 15 or 16, he decided to try. A family friend, who was also a manager at the Dairy Queen where Noe worked in high school, offered to help him book a few shows and get some songs recorded. Although Noe considers them just bedroom recordings now, the discs gave him something to sell when he started playing coffee shops and other small stages around Winchester and Lexington, Kentucky, and a little bit in Ohio.

“For me it was a turning point just getting a few songs that I was happy with. I didn’t understand anything about making a record, or what that meant, when I was 15 or 16,” Noe admits. “It was the farthest thing from my mind, but once I got a couple of songs that I was satisfied with, I just kept going.”

After high school, Noe took an office job close to home instead of enrolling in college. In his early 20s, he relocated to Louisville, hoping to get a band together and write music, but he had to constantly work odd jobs as a subcontractor to make rent. After a year, he briefly returned to the office job back home before finding work on an Eastern Kentucky oil rig – which he considers the best job he’s ever had, outside of music.

Soaked with oil after his 12-hour shifts, Noe never once considered what a career in music would look like. Yet through a mutual acquaintance, his original songs attracted the attention of an artist manager. Impressed with his raw talent, she sent him an email of encouragement, which ultimately led to a working relationship. Since that time, Noe has opened multiple dates for kindred spirit Colter Wall, tapping into an audience that appreciates the sincerity and austerity in Noe’s original songs, too.

Noe received another stamp of approval in February 2019 after singing at a John Prine tribute concert at the Troubadour in Los Angeles – with Prine himself in the crowd. Staged the night before the Grammys, Noe’s performance led to an offer to open three shows for his musical hero. As Noe puts it, “I’ve sat around my whole life thinking about what that would be like.”

Although touring is imminent, Between the Country serves as a potent snapshot of home. The black-and-white cover photo alludes to a lyric in the title track but Noe believes it also illustrates the album as a whole. It’s the same approach that Lucinda Williams employed on her landmark 1998 album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which Noe cites as one of his all-time favorites. “If you have a collection of songs where the subject matter is pretty much the same, and it’s coming from the same place, I think it’s important to have some kind of picture that reflects that. I’ve always felt that way,” he says.

Noe now lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky, about an hour north of Nashville, where his bandmates are based. After years of writing songs alone and playing solo acoustic sets, he now prefers touring with a band, making it possible to carry the overall mood of Between the Country out on the road as well. After all, he and Cobb recorded the album live on the floor, completing the sessions in two days. Amid these uncluttered arrangements and a relaxed vibe, Noe’s evocative voice truly stands out.

“I wanted a warm sound – that analog sound,” Noe says. “When we were getting the rough mixes going, that’s how it sounded, and that’s the direction it went in. You want people to be able to hear what you’re saying and what you’re singing about, and I think analog makes a good song stand the test of time.”



NPR Music - First Listen: Ian Noe, "Between The Country"
"...stark, beautiful collection of short story songs..."
"Like John Prine, one of his musical heroes, Noe's Between the Country is full of stunning imagery... it's as if the listener is standing right there with Noe, watching the scene play out."
"Noe captures the tenor of the community he grew up in with sad, often heartbreaking brilliance. Throughout Between the Country there's not a wasted word or note in the warm playing of the ensemble. There exists, however, a glimmer of hope..."



A.V. Club - Meet Ian Noe, the Kentucky troubadour who’s gone from the oilfields to opening for John Prine
“…stunned the entire room into silence with staggering songs of pain, love, and wandering..."
“The emotional depth of his lyrics coupled with his forceful vocal cadence atop delicate melodies are certainly enough to carry his songs on their own..."
"…a deceptively lush album. There’s a purpose to each musical layer—the quiet brushstrokes across snare drums and cymbals keeping soft time, background harmonies from fellow singer-songwriter Savannah Conley that smooth out Noe’s general intensity, field recordings of oncoming freight trains and Kentucky stream water—they all aid in depicting the stories Noe wants to tell us, rendering his emotional memories and experiences of Kentucky into audio.”
“...there isn’t anyone quite like him in the current music landscape.”
“…he’s quickly established himself a cult following as priest at the altar of artists like Dylan, Prine, Neil Young, and the Guthries. But seeing him perform, watching audiences literally stop mid-conversation to watch a Kentuckian they’ve never heard of begin to play—it’s easy to envision him ascending to that same pantheon with enough time.”
"...when he does open his mouth, it’s a good idea to pause whatever you’re doing and listen.”
Venue Information:
Neighborhood Theatre
511 East 36th Street
Charlotte, NC, 28205
http://www.neighborhoodtheatre.com/