Son Volt's Travel Guide to Five Bizarre Tour Stops

Son Volt is heading down the highway with a new album in tow, Honky Tonk, but instead of lamenting still waters and beatnik poets, Jay Farrar and company have gone strictly Bakersfield, even naming a track after the legendary country-music mecca.

Yep, Farrar has gone back to his roots mixing steel guitar and fiddle, the kind of music that's good for sucking down beers while drinking away broken hearts.

And if you happened to take a gander at Music Editor Chris Gray's shame, shame on Galveston post, in which he wondered if Honky Tonk's "Seawall" was written about the island city at the end of 45 southbound, um, nope, Farrar says it wasn't.

Before Honky Tonk, the last thing Farrar did was put Woody's Guthrie's long-lost journals to music on New Multitudes, an album he did last year with My Morning Jacket's Jim James and Centro-Matic's Will Johnson. (Those fans on the Wilco/Billy Bragg bandwagon will remember Mermaid Avenue in a similar vein.)

Now Farrar has added author to an already crowded resume. His new book, Falling Cars and Junkyard Dogs, is a collection of vignettes, from his home-grown heroes (Willie Nelson and Townes Van Zandt, to name a few), to a propaganda piece dubbed "Dialectic of Country and Communism," which explores the history of country music filled in with photographs of a life spent touring the blacktops of the good ole U.S. of A.

Speaking of open roads, the sun is out and nature is calling, and we thought what better way to explore the highways and byways of backwoods Americana than a firsthand look at the weirdest, most-missed opportunities that have plagued Son Volt during their on-again, off-again stint as a band. Here's the pitch, straight from Farrar himself:

5. Columbia, Mo. (Early 1990s) "If you didn't spend all your money at the Elvis is Alive museum on the way there, then you could live and breathe the American Constitution through the 2nd and 21st Amendments at the "Liquor, Guns and Ammo" store near the Blue Note club."

We probably wouldn't have made it past the Elvis museum.

4. St. Louis "Baseball, Beer, Blues, Bavaria, Bridges, Brain Sandwiches, Bosnia, BBQ, Billikens and Bocce."

Say no more, but um, Brain Sandwiches?

3. Miami, Okla. "Son Volt was pulled over by the local police in Miami, Oklahoma, on suspicion of taking photos inside a Taco Bell," he says. "Has anyone EVER taken a photo inside a Taco Bell?"

Not yet, but we're definitely adding this to the ole bucket list.

2. South of Dallas "While killing time, I decided to take a photo of a plexiglass smoking box outside of a praline factory," he says. "It was plexiglass on all sides, with a red Eames chair inside for employees to sit and light up. I was told to leave by an employee. I never figured out what was so top-secret -- the pralines in production or the plexiglass smoking box with the red Eames chair."

Probably didn't want anyone building a plexiglass box of their own. We're downloading plans now.

1. Houston "Always keep your head up," Farrar advises. "I walked right past Willie Nelson in a hotel parking lot. Maybe I was preoccupied thinking about the chord changes to one of his songs. Possibly 'Night Life.'"

Got that Houston? Keep your head up when out walking.

Son Volt performs 10 p.m. Thursday at the Continental Club, 3700 Main. Tickets -- if there are any left -- are available through Sig's Lagoon.

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