Son Volt

Jay Farrar doesn't really sweat fickle musical tastes. The Son Volt founder and front man shrugs them off during "6 String Belief" on 2005's Okemah and the Melody of Riot with a dense, roots-rock guitar crunch, his potent-as-undiluted-vinegar singing and the simple pronouncement "Palates will ebb and masses will flow." (Those lyrics are less cryptic than usual for Farrar, but — for the record — he did clear up the poetic haze a bit between Okemah and 2007's The Search.) Not that changing attitudes bothered Farrar much before that, either; he's pretty well set on his musical course. And that course sits between biting, guitar-heavy rock and a dustier acoustic sound, paved with stream-of-consciousness lyrics, elemental melodies that spiral downward like rusty springs, a stiff-jawed delivery and a voice fractured and forceful like a whine, though not as overtly emotional. Farrar cares little for faddish particulars like how en vogue alt-country — the descriptor most often applied to his music — might be at any given moment, or whether that's even what it's called at all.

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Jewly Hight