It is hard not to notice that “Union,” the newest release from St. Louis-based band Son Volt, has a distinct political bent. Songs like the title track and “The 99” tackle some hot-button topics indicative of contemporary American discourse, with lyrics that speak of protest and income inequality.
Jay Farrar, the band’s lead singer and song writer, explained to producer Alex Heuer on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air that he wanted to write songs addressing the modern political climate, something that the artists he grew up listening to did in their own eras.
“I was really just kind of taking in ideas from reading headlines and putting it back out,” Farrar said. “That's kind of the tradition of the bard, I guess. It's the musical background I grew up with – folk music, protest music, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie.”
The album was partly recorded at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Mother Jones Museum in Mount Olive, Illinois, which Farrar said was a nod to the way the songs he was writing connected with the messages of the two famous organizers and activists.
“I wanted to highlight the contributions that those folks made – Mother Jones and Woody Guthrie – and some of the material I was writing seems like it was aligned with their viewpoints,” he said.
Farrar, who is originally from Belleville, also discussed his roots in the area and why he has stayed in St. Louis throughout his decades-long career that began with alt-country band Uncle Tupelo.
“St. Louis has a lot going for it,” he said. “I just [visited] Brooklyn, and maybe Brooklyn of 20 years ago I found to be kind of exciting, but I just came from Cherokee Street yesterday, and I find the energy down on Cherokee to be very exciting – better than Brooklyn at this point.”
Listen to the full conversation:
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