Sound — 8
It seems that Jay Farrar is feeling very fruitful after the Son Volt reunion, as he releases albums both for his side and solo projects as well as the band frequent enough to make a lot of musicians jealous. The latest, second after the re-union album and a follow-up to their 2005's Okemah and the Melody of Riot, The Search by Son Volt is out March 6 on Transmit Sound/Legacy. On the record Farrar was joined again by drummer Dave Bryson, bassist Andrew Duplantis, guitarist Brad Rice together with a new keyboardist Derry DeBorja. The album starts with the same piano that closed Okemah and the Melody of Riot, very symbolic linking The Search with its predecessor. The haunting opener Slow Hearse mildly wakes you up, deliberately introducing you to the album. Farrar is half-yawning, half-singing, repeating the same words Feels like drivin' 'round in a slow hearse during the track. The following The Picture is an uplifting loud song (comparing to the other tracks on The Search) with a section of horns playing the main role. The songs are mellow and even more cheerful tracks like Beacon Soul sound soft. These are different piano sounds that create the mild background. Talking about the title of the album, Farrar says that the whole process was about seeking different instrumentation and the way it sounded. The guys paid a lot of attention to different instruments fitting each other, carefully picking out guitar effects and keyboard sounds. Even though there are quite a lot of everything -- piano, organ, horns, guitars -- all of them sound organic together. While piano is leading on the album, guitars' presence is in every song, but not always evident. Automatic Society is the most guitar-based track with Farrar and guitarist Brad Rice playing tribute to '70s hairy rock bands.
Lyrics — 8
Farrar is known for his simple lyrics filled with complex meaning and this album is no exception. The tracks are full of nostalgia and life according to a settled-down man. Like a real patriot, Farrar couldn't avoid subjects that reflect on the current and future state of things in the country. He's singing When war is profit and profit is war in musically happy The Picture. Jay Farrar's singing is soulful without any sharp sounds and it is rich for different overtones. It's not as rough as rock and it's not as nasal as country vocals. He mixes the traditional country and rock singing, finding the balance between the two and never being too much of either one. Farrar is accompanied by beautiful vocals of Shannon McNally on Highways And Cigarettes.
Overall Impression — 8
There are no stand-outs on the CD as it goes on pretty much the same level filled with peaceful ballads. The tracks are usually diversified with different sounds, but they all fade in the pensive mood of the record. Even though the band describes the album as powerful and inspiring, there is melancholy in every song. It has some certain charm and you'll be hooked if you manage to get into the same mood with the author. There are 14 tracks on the CD, most of them barely reach 2.30 minute limit and you think you're half-way through the album when it's suddenly over. The Search is an easy-listening record and the fact that it was produced by the band's nerve center Jay Farrar adds to its smooth sound.