Son Volt Glasgow: King Tut's, Sat 8 Nov; Edinburgh: The Venue, Sun 9 Nov.
After two fine albums, mucho critical acclaim in the adult- orientated music press (ie Rolling Stone) and modest commercial success, Jay Farrar still sounds like he got the blues bad. There’s only one thing more plaintiver joyless than the sound of frontman Farrar's voice on record, and that is the same voice coming down a phoneline. But fortunately, no one is hiring him as an after-dinner speaker; his band, Son Volt, are touring Europe to play their distinctively down-beat brand of country-rock, not tell jokes.
Son Volt were formed after Farrar split from Uncle Tupelo, a rather more good-time orientated band who provided a creative outlet for two great song-writing talents: Farrar himself, and Jeff Needy. The original band’s first album. No Depression, was adopted as the title of a genre-defining fanzine which covered what came to be known as alt.country in the US. Like all such tags (see also Britpop, Madchester) the label was a useful marketing device which started to annoy the hell out of the bands themselves. ‘lt's not a label or concept that any of the bands got behind,’ says Farrar.
For Uncle Tupelo fans, the sadness that such a good partnership should end was mitigated by the formation of Son Volt and Tweedy’s Wilco. For once, the sum of the parts turned out to be greater than the whole, and there are now two great bands where once there was one. The split was ascribed to musical differences, which for once apears to be the case; both bands frequently appear on the same bill in the US and Farrar says they didn't write together anyway.
Listening to Son Volt and Wilco albums back-to-back, it’s easy to imagine that Tweedy and Farrar were the yin and yang of Uncle Tupelo. Wilco maintain a country
Son Volt share another hilarious gag
edge but deliver it with a kind bar-room boogie enthusiasm which makes them a fun live band. Son Volt, and presumably Farrar, are more introverted and the new album Straightaways is, at times, almost painful in its bleakness. Anything resembling a pop hook has been relentlessly pared away to leave the dry bones of the songs, decorated only by the virtuosity of Dave Boquist’s fiddle, banjo and lap steel chords.
Why so down, Jay? ’I guess that's just my type of writing - those are themes I’ve always been interested in,’ he says. ’They're not intended to be maudlin - they're just not intended to be feel good songs.’ No, indeedy not. (Eddie Gibb)
God's Boyfriend: Joan Jett with balls
perfects songs when she writes them, but I just turn up to a practice with a chord and it turns into a song if we’re lucky}
God’s Boyfriend formed a few years back over a packed lunch in an East Kilbride playground. Donnelly was a later, necessary addition owing to her rocking virtuosity. Of her momentous decision to join EK’s premier girlpower punka quartet, she says she 'just had nothing else to do. I didn’t have any pals.‘
It’s agreed, however, that adopting the current line-up (completed by bassist Heather Macnaught and drummer Gary McReynolds) has made all the difference. The group are now on to their third one-off single release. ’Pond' appears on the Trade Z/lsland
God's Boyfriend Glasgow: The 13th Note, Mon 10 Nov.
Lisa Hutchison, one of God’s Boyfriend’s two singer/guitarists, wrinkles her nose in distaste at the thought of courting the music industry, meeting record company reps and netting publishing deals. ’lmagine someone owning your songs!’ she says, completely oblivious to the fact that publishing is where the money
lies. Completely oblivious, in fact, to most aspects of being in a band that don't involve getting together with three mates and making a racket. Which is a pretty refreshing attitude to encounter, until, several years down the line, the rogue picture surfaces of Lisa and her fellow songwriter Laura Donnelly at each others' throats over who gets the most money and who had the superior writing style, anyway. Perhaps not.
For now the difference is that ’Laura
singles club and is further confirmation that God's Boyfriend can take on bigger fish like Veruca Salt at the tough-but-tuneful game.
This meets with the girls’ general approval. ’We were planning how we could go back in time and kill Veruca Salt,’ says Hutchison, 'and we could be them with more balls. I think we’ll still maintain a wee bit of the Joan Jett thing.’
Your cue to put another dime in the jukebox, baby. (Fiona Shepherd)
Paris, City Of Light Edinburgh: Queen's Hall, every Tue, 18 Nov—23 Dec.
Paris in spring may be the stuff that romantic dreams are made of, but the reality of Paris in Edinburgh on winter nights may actually be more interesting. Looking at the programme for Paris, City of Light, a BBC Radio Three/Queen’s Hall collaboration of six concerts that celebrate Paris and its artistic highpoints in the early years of the 20th century, it's tempting to forget the air tickets and book concert ones instead.
'What I have tried to do,‘ says producer Svend Brown, ’is offer as broad a cross-section as possible of music that would have been hot and new in Paris from around lQOS—l925.’ It was certainly a fertile period, encompassing the jazz age, Cubism, Diaghilev’s Ba/lets Russes, Matisse, Cocteau and cafe culture. Composers who brought their own individual influence to Parisian and, ultimately, international culture at this period include Debussy, Poulenc, Stravinsky, Ravel, Fauré and Satie. It is the last which Svend Brown feels has been most underrated. ’For far too long Satie’s extraordinary impact on musical life has been overshadowed by the Gymnoped/e — and its revolutionary sound has been rendered banal by a million musak arrangements. In fact, there are very few French composers of the period who were untouched by his iconoclastic, quirky and utterly individual approach.’
It is no surprise then that Brown has chosen to programme Satie first in the series. Described as a ’mystic, joker and eccentric’, Satie wrote some of the most enigmatic music for piano ever heard and, as it’s to be performed by the brilliant young virtuoso pianist Rolf Hind, this concert promises to be an appropriate springboard for the others. ’What emerges from the series' says Brown, 'is what a melting pot the place was.’ And, if you’re looking for Gymnoped/e, forget it, as it’s not even included in a non—banal version. (Carol Main)
Rolf Hind kicks off the series with a spot of Satie
7—20 Nov 1997 THE HST“