Son Volt

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Son Volt
Son Volt playing at Wakarusa in 2005
Son Volt playing at Wakarusa in 2005
Background information
OriginBelleville, Illinois, U.S.
Years active
  • 1994–2001
  • 2004–present
Spinoff ofUncle Tupelo
MembersJay Farrar
Andrew DuPlantis
Mark Patterson
John Horton
Mark Spencer
Past membersMike Heidorn
Dave Boquist
Jim Boquist
Eric Heywood
Brad Rice
Derry deBorja
Chris Masterson
Dave Bryson
Gary Hunt
Chris Frame
Jacob Edwards
WebsiteOfficial website

Son Volt is an American rock band formed in 1994 by Jay Farrar after the breakup of Uncle Tupelo. The band's current line-up consists of Farrar (vocals, guitar), Andrew DuPlantis (bass guitar), John Horton (guitar), Mark Patterson (drums), and Mark Spencer (keyboard, steel guitar). In addition to playing alternative rock, the band is considered a staple of the alternative country rock movement of the 1990s. The band's sound also is rooted in folk rock and Americana. The band went on an indefinite hiatus in 2001,[1] before reforming in 2004.[2]


Early Years, Trace, Straightaways, and Wide Swing Tremolo[edit]

The group formed after the alternative country rock act Uncle Tupelo broke up due to tensions between Farrar and bandmate Jeff Tweedy. After Uncle Tupelo split, Tweedy formed the alternative rock act Wilco, while Farrar decided to form another act. While forming Son Volt, Farrar met Jim and Dave Boquist during the final Uncle Tupelo tour and teamed up with former Uncle Tupelo drummer Mike Heidorn to create the band. The group performed and recorded in the Minneapolis area in late 1994 and performed its first concert at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis on June 16, 1995. While half of the band was rooted in the Minneapolis area, Farrar and Heidorn lived in the St. Louis area, and the band used both cities as bases for its operations during the first couple of years.

Son Volt's first album, Trace, met with critical acclaim and topped many "best-of" lists in 1995. It was a moderate commercial success; the first track "Windfall" became very popular in the alt-country scene, while the band released "Drown" as a single which charted #10 on the mainstream rock charts and #25 on the modern rock charts. By 2009, Trace had sold 297,000 copies in the United States.[3]

1997's Straightaways featured a more alternative rock sound, leading some music critics to give negative reviews, but strong and positive reviews came from outlets such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Chicago Tribune. 1998's Wide Swing Tremolo continued in the same vein and received mostly positive reviews from music outlets. Entertainment Weekly wrote that "many of the songs ... return to the power and purity of the band’s brilliant 1995 debut, Trace."

Hiatus and Return[edit]

Farrar announced a hiatus from Son Volt after their 1999 tour. Beginning in 2001, Jay Farrar released several solo efforts that postponed further releases from Son Volt. Farrar reformed with the original members of Son Volt to record a song for a tribute album for Alejandro Escovedo. The sessions reportedly went so well that Farrar and the other band members intended to record once again in the autumn of 2004. Just prior to the sessions, however, Farrar and the other band members abruptly ended negotiations.[4] Farrar formed a new version of the band with a different line-up and released an album on Transmit Sound/Sony Legacy, Okemah and the Melody of Riot, a folk-rock album based on protest music that had been influenced by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.[5] in 2005. That same year also saw the release of A Retrospective: 1995-2000, which gathered highlights from this era, along with previously unreleased recordings. 2006 saw the release of a live DVD, Six String Belief, which was recorded at The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC.

Band Reformed and New Music[edit]

In 2007 the band returned to an alternative rock and alt-country sound and released a studio album called The Search. The Americana- and folk-influenced album American Central Dust followed, released by Rounder Records on July 7, 2009. Their next project was a Bakersfield Sound-influenced album aptly named Honky Tonk, which was released March 5, 2013, also by Rounder Records. A large scale tour followed the release of the album.[6] On February 17, 2017, the band released Notes of Blue on Farrar's label, Transmit Sound.

Union and Electro Melodier[edit]

The band's ninth studio album, Union, was released on March 28, 2019 on Farrar's Transmit Sound label and distributed by Thirty Tigers Records.[7] The album consisted of songs that were highly critical of the election of US President Donald Trump and his administration. Many of the songs were commentaries on middle-class economics, freedom of the press, and immigration. Son Volt's tenth album, Electro Melodier, was released on July 30, 2021. In early summer 2021, guitarist Chris Frame announced that he would be leaving the band to pursue other interests and was replaced by former Bottle Rockets guitarist John Horton. The tribute album Day of the Doug followed in 2023.

Musical style[edit]

Son Volt's music ranges from quiet folk ballads reminiscent of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, to heartland rock in the spirit of Neil Young with Crazy Horse. The band's sound features a heavy alternative rock sound in many places, all while basing their music in mostly an Americana style.[8] Reviews refer to the band as alternative country pioneers, a "staple in the ALT-Country Scene" or "a cult favorite", with their music "spanning a few musical niches", but based in Americana.[9][10][11]


Current members[12]

Former members

  • Mike Heidorn (drums), formerly of Uncle Tupelo (original member of Son Volt)
  • Dave Boquist (banjo, fiddle, guitar, lap steel) (original member of Son Volt)
  • Jim Boquist (bass guitar, backing vocals) (original member of Son Volt)
  • Eric Heywood (mandolin, pedal steel)
  • Brad Rice (guitar on Okemah and the Melody of Riot, The Search)
  • Derry deBorja (keyboards on The Search)
  • Chris Masterson (guitar on American Central Dust)
  • Gary Hunt (guitar, mandolin, steel guitar on Honky Tonk)
  • Dave Bryson (drums on Okemah and the Melody of Riot, The Search, American Central Dust, Honky Tonk)
  • Jason Kardong (pedal steel on Notes of Blue)
  • Jacob Edwards (drums on Notes of Blue)
  • Chris Frame (guitar on Union, Electro Melodier)



List of studio albums, with selected chart positions and sales figures
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales



Trace 166 7
  • Released: April 22, 1997[15]
  • Label: Warner Bros.
Wide Swing Tremolo
  • Released: October 6, 1998[17]
  • Label: Warner Bros.
Okemah and the Melody of Riot
  • Released: October 5, 2005
  • Label: Transmit Sound
The Search
  • Released: March 6, 2007
  • Label: Transmit Sound
81 6
American Central Dust
  • Released: July 7, 2009
  • Label: Rounder
44 12
Honky Tonk
  • Released: March 5, 2013
  • Label: Rounder
67 16
Notes of Blue
  • Released: February 17, 2017
  • Label: Transmit Sound
91 4 10
  • Released: March 29, 2019
  • Label: Transmit Sound
Electro Melodier
  • Released: July 30, 2021[18]
  • Label: Transmit Sound
Day of the Doug
  • Released: June 16, 2023
  • Label: Transmit Sound
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live albums[edit]

  • Live at the Orange Peel (2020), Transmit Sound



List of singles, with selected chart positions and certifications, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Album



US Mod.
CAN Alt.
"Windfall"[14] 1995 Trace
"Drown"[20] 15 10 25
"Loose String"
"Route"[21] 1996
"Back Into Your World"[15] 1997 Straightaways
"Picking Up the Signal"
"Caryatid Easy"
"Driving the View"[16] 1998 Wide Swing Tremolo
"Straightface" 28 8
"Joe Citizen Blues/Jet Pilot" 2005 Okemah and the Melody of Riot
"The Picture" 2007 30 The Search
"Down to the Wire" 2009 American Central Dust
"Hearts and Minds" 2013 Honky Tonk
"Back Against the Wall" 2017 24 Notes of Blue
"The 99"[22] 2019 Union
"The Reason"[23]
"The Globe"[24] 2020 Electro Melodier
"Reverie"[25] 2021
"Livin' in the USA"[26]
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
1995 "Drown" Steven Goldmann


  1. ^ Billboard Staff (September 27, 2001). "Jay Farrar Spreads His Solo Wings". Billboard. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  2. ^ Sculley, Alan. "Son Volt returns -- in a sense". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c Ayers, Michael D. (August 13, 2009). "Death Cab's Ben Gibbard, Jay Farrar Team Up For Kerouac Soundtrack". Billboard. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  4. ^ Jake Brown (September 22, 2004). "Son Volt Reforms and Returns to the Studio". Glorious Noise. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  5. ^ Author Interviews. "Son Volt Is Back: 'Okemah and the Melody of Riot' : World Cafe". NPR. Retrieved December 2, 2015. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  6. ^ "Official Son Volt site". Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  7. ^ "Son Volt to Release 9th Studio Album, "Union" on 3/29". Music News Net.
  8. ^ Stewart, M (2017)."Alt-Country Pioneers Son Volt Hit Stride at D.C.’s 9:30 Club"Live Music Daily
  9. ^ Remz, J.B (2019). "Son Volt does it with music",Country Standard Time
  10. ^ Armstrong, C (2019). "Son Volt, ‘Reality Winner’ [Exclusive Premiere]", the Boot
  11. ^ Obenschain, P (2019). "REMINDER Don’t Miss Son Volt w/ Old Salt Union | TONIGHT @ The Basement East",No Country for New Nashville]
  12. ^ Brock Thiessen. "Son Volt Return with New Album 'Notes of Blue'". Exclaim!. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Anon. "Son Volt Chart History". Billboard. Archived from the original on November 21, 2021. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  14. ^ a b Borzillo, Carrie (September 16, 1995). "Uncle's Offspring | Popular Uprisings". Billboard. Vol. 107, no. 37. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 21.
  15. ^ a b Rosen, Craig (March 22, 1997). "WB Charged Up for 2nd Son Volt Set". Billboard. Vol. 109, no. 12. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 12, 14.
  16. ^ a b Bell, Carrie (September 5, 1998). "Son Volt Explores New Spaces on Warner's 'Wide'". Billboard. Vol. 110, no. 36. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 22.
  17. ^ Deveshin, Colin (September 1, 1998). "Son Volt Turn It Up With Tremolo". MTV. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  18. ^ Bernstein, Jonathan (May 13, 2021). "Son Volt Preview New Album With Hopeful 'Reverie'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  19. ^ "RPM Alternative 30". RPM. November 30, 1998 – via Library and Archives Canada.
  20. ^ Anon. (October 20, 1995). "Son Volt Hopes to Rise" (PDF). R&R (1117): 30. ISSN 0277-4860 – via
  21. ^ Anon. (April 19, 1996). "Warner Bros. Records Advertisement" (PDF). Gavin Report (2101): 27 – via
  22. ^ Ferris, Jedd (February 15, 2019). "Son Volt Address Income Inequality in New Song 'The 99'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  23. ^ "Exclusive: Son Volt Find Strength in "The Reason"". March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  24. ^ sveditor2016 (June 5, 2020). "SON VOLT RELEASES NEW SONG". Son Volt. Retrieved March 3, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Bernstein, Jonathan (May 13, 2021). "Son Volt Preview New Album With Hopeful 'Reverie'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  26. ^ "Son Volt Releases 'Livin' In The USA' Single". JamBase. Retrieved March 3, 2023.

External links[edit]