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4.4 out of 5 stars
American Central Dust
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2009
Format: Audio CD
After several listens, I am placing this record just after Straightaways in my "favorite Son Volt" list. Jay's songwriting is in top form, and they've stripped down the production a bit, which is not a bad thing in my book. My only wish is that they had one more growling rocker; however, the record is still excellent. All the comparisons with Wilco are pointless. Son Volt and Wilco are so far removed from each other now, if we didn't know Jay and Jeff were once in a band together, we wouldn't compare them at all. If you are a SV fan, or just like good rootsy music, don't hesitate and buy this one.
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38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2009
Format: Audio CD
First, I'd pay Jay Farrar a dollar if he quit hanging out with Mark Spencer, a guy who oversaturates every song with unnecessarily bombastic guitar or steel and who pretty much ruined the entire "Live in Seattle" album with freight-train-volume theatrics. Despite having the chops, he flat-out doesn't understand the "less is more" concept when it comes to accompaniment in stark, fragile songs like these. I'd venture to say that this album would have sounded even more Nebraskan (in a good way) if not for his presence, which is pretty obvious if you've ever seen Spencer jam with Farrar onstage. By contrast though is the underrated drumming of Dave Bryson, a guy who makes songs out of skeletons and doesn't need to overplay a thing (but when he does, as in the super fills in "When the Wheels Don't Move", it makes the entire song shake with a forlorn funkiness).

Nonetheless, this here's the "Son Volt" you remember back in the Sigma Kappa days, jamming to "Drown" at the beer bust, thinking you stumbled on the best band in America at midnight at Rocky's Pub somewhere in a beer-soaked room with everyone talking and five people playing music that sounded like a history lesson set to scratchy library Folkways records. Listen to the depth in "Down to the Wire", "No Turning Back", and "Pushed Too Far", three of the best songs to come out of Jay in years, and you're certain you had a nightmare that he tried to "go global" with a bad horn section and doctrinaire lyrics like "war is profit and profit is war". Fact is, this music is the relaxed, direct urgency we'd expect from a guy who has always been comfortable in this landscape, whose desire to "see the world" in other forms would always land him right back here anyway. Jay in a spacesuit didn't mean much to me; Jay in overalls does it every time.

Bonus points for the vibey song "Jukebox of Steel", with bold imagery to boot. It's his best sounding song since "Gather".
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2009
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Son Volt's new album "American Central Dust" is a modern classic and could show Nashville a thing or two about how to play real country music. It says so much with so little, and further proves why Jay Farrar is a musical GENIUS. His band artfully portrays a somber but hopeful view of rural America, its highways, and its industry, and looks deep within themselves to sing about love and relationships. BTW, you won't hear any of the songs on the radio because Jay and company will not go to bed with Clear Channel to compromise the music and sell out.....Radio is afraid of bands like Son Volt.....

Give it a listen....Just Jay's voice, some crying guitar, some steel.....Minimal arrangements, no studio tricks.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I was at a life changing crossroads when I fist got Trace and quite frankly put as much faith in the words of Jay's first three son volt albums as I do the 3 main gosphels in the new testemant and that is how powerful those albums are. This is along the the lines of Straightaways and is very good. And even though he and jeff Tweedy were the driving forces behind Uncle Tupelo, you will never hear one critic utter the name of Jay Farrar or SonVolt. Shameful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I'm beginning to think Jay Farrar has a spiritual kinship with Neil Young, who also waxes and wanes between his acoustic and electric moods. After the electric guitar driven Okemah and the Melody of Riot and the more experimental The Search, American Central Dust returns Farrar to the dusty highways and train tracks of Trace and Straightaways without sounding like a rehash of those albums. The lyrics on ACD are among some of Farrar's most accessible, given real life pathos by Farrar's gentle growl. Musically, ACD is mostly a jangle of acoustic guitars and subtle tasteful drums, permeated by tremolo-laden electric guitar and plaintive pedal steel. Some songs also feature touches of organ, accordion, violins, and violas.

The highlight of the CD for me was the piano driven "Cocaine and Ashes", written as a tribute to Keith Richards. It really captures the "seen it all, done it all" life of the Rolling Stones guitarist. All of the songs are great though, from the ebullient "Dynamite" to the driving "When the Wheels Don't Move" to the dirge like "Sultana" (referencing the steamboat which suffered a boiler explosion in 1865, the worst maritime disaster in US history). Once again Farrar reveals himself to be one of America's most underrated songwriters. An album of his is like reading a well-polished collection of short stories.

I know that many people will still complain that this album is not as good as Trace, or the other albums by the original Son Volt lineup. Considering that(aside from Farrar)this is a completely different group from the one that made those records, I find it hard to put these guys down simply for that reason. This is a great album made by talented musicians and it deserves to stand on its own merits, which are pretty fine. Easily one of the best albums of 2009 and a welcome release from an old friend.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2009
Format: Audio CD
This CD shakes off the experimentation Farrar used with the last two Son Volt albums and instead reminds one of "Trace" and "Straightaways." I wondered about the hype that said this was the best since "Trace," but I agree. The only thing lacking from most of their earlier releases is a few strong rocking songs, but Farrar makes up for that with the beauty of what's here.

There aren't really any duds on here, and I especially love "Dust of Daylight," "No Turning Back," and "Jukebox of Steel." Farrar hasn't sounded this good to me in years. I'm glad he and Son Volt are still around, putting out great music like this. Highly recommended for fans of early Son Volt or Uncle Tupelo.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2009
Format: MP3 Music
this is definitely an album that needs a few spins to seep in. managed to get this one early, and after a couple listens thought the album was good, but that the rhythm section was boring, had a couple songs that could have been removed, and left me with a bit of an overall feeling of disappointment about jay's "return to form". but there was something there so i kept listening. and things started to shift; phrases and music started to drop into place in a way that i hadn't caught previously. each listen brought a new discovery of some understated gem, a viewpoint of americana cooked down to a bare essence. then during a listen remembering the name of the album, the meaning of the album as a whole came into focus. very much a "ah hah!" moment. so that's what he's getting at.

american central dust. going through the forgotten attics of the midwest. i really want to jump in my beat up jeep, roll down the windows, crank this up, and get lost on the backroads. a.c.d is so good in an understated way that it's going to get some bad reviews, eg, pitchfork, that is doesn't deserve. i've been listening to this album at least once every couple days now for a few months, and i don't see that changing anytime soon. fantastic work that truly reflects not only the middle of america in a beautiful, sad and honest way, but also an artist who has mastered his craft and message in a way that shuns unneeded frills and avoids obvious attention. "the truth is not free, and everyone must pay the price." - dynamite
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2010
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I've been on a trip around the entire Uncle Tupleo, Son Volt and Wilco catalogs - after hearing some of this album and Wilco's latest on an alternative radio station. At times I have thought that "Still Feel Gone" (Uncle Tupelo) or "Trace" (Son Volt) were the real standouts. Then "Anodyne" and this album have risen right up there with the other "bests" for me. While I like Wilco, Wilco hasn't stood the test of repeated listenings - I kind of lost interest - although I really need to re-listen to "AM" - I suspect that it is also an album I'll like a lot with repeated listenings. Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt albums are the way the best music works for me - and by that I mean that after a number of listenings it hits me like a ton of bricks, and then the music sticks to me for good - or at least until I look forward to the next offering.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: MP3 MusicVerified Purchase
I fell in love with Son Volt from the start. "Trace" seemed to be just about perfect from start to finish. It was hard to believe that Uncle Tupelo could break up and I could have twice the amount of quality music. How often does that happen? Throughout the years, I've found something to love with varying degrees of success in each Son Volt or Jay Farrar release. "The voice" just gets me every time. It seems like the move to Rounder might have brought things full circle. The dusty, creaky, well worn, "high lonesome" sound is back. The plaster cracking volume is missing but "American Central Dust" feels right. Try it with a few frosty bottles of your favorite beverage. You'll find the whole experience flavorful and satisfying.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
This is the album where Jay Farrar finally puts those harsh comparisons to the great Uncle Tupelo down for good. He came close twice before, but this album, top to bottom is a classic. Farrar's greatest fault has always been his obsessive moodiness, but here, he points his anger outward and that makes all the difference in the world because righteous anger doesn't sound like self pity the way depression can. It's no big secret, Neil Young has known for years that the best way to program an album is to alternate a few rockers and change-of-pace songs with the downers. Farrar has always been too great a musician to stay a minor leaguer forever. Good for him!
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