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Son Volt | Union

The roots-rock veteran unleashes his most potent political piece in over a decade.

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That’s Union as in State of The Union. And spoiler alert: It ain’t good. Not in Son Volt frontman Jay Farrar’s considered opinion, anyway. The veteran singer-guitarist’s ninth studio album since leaving Uncle Tupelo a quarter-century ago is his most pointedly and potently political effort in 15 years. Over the course of 39 minutes and 13 tightly focused songs, Farrar and his woodsmoked, Zevonesque pipes take direct aim at everything from income inequality (The 99) and ICE (The Symbol) to fake-news distractions (While Rome Burns) and the death of freedom (Lady Liberty). And because there’s more than one way to rabble-rouse, he also champions whistleblowers (Reality Winner), the working class (Rebel Girl, adapted from the Little Red Songbook) and the labour movement (the title track). Interestingly, along with being his most topical work since 1994’s anti-Dubya outing Okemah and the Melody of Riot, it’s also his rootsiest, returning to the warm familiarity of twangy Americana after his last few releases’ detours into gritty blues-rock and dry Bakersfield country. America’s union might be in tatters, but Farrar’s has never seemed stronger.