Opener "Hearts and Minds" demonstrates the laid-back flow that you'll catch throughout the album. But, just a few tracks later, "Wild Side" kinda slows the tempo down a bit too much.
The slide guitar on "Angel of the Blues" lends a bright atmosphere to the otherwise crestfallen reflection on life. And there's one of the prominent motifs in the album: idle Midwestern moods, casting a sentimental eye toward Farrar's patently far-reaching undertakings.
When the band retooled and dropped Okemah and the Melody of Riot in 2005, things were looking really good. The *feeling* evident throughout that release, however, just isn't entirely present on this current outing. (I mean, just cue up "Jet Pilot" and dig into that massive chorus!) It's also a question of dynamics. Farrar's earlier stuff was hellbent on expansive sounds and, well, actual excitement and zeal.
In the end, is today's release just an excuse to go back and pull out your old Son Volt records? Maybe. Tune in to the new stuff and cast your own judgment. But, yes, do listen to "Jet Pilot" sometime today.
Follow Eric Sandy on Twitter @ericsandy