When Jay Farrar revived Son Volt in 2005, he initially opted for the snarly electric guitars and dusty, haunted spirit at the core of alt-country on Okemah, then sharply expanded the band's palette on The Search with a more experimental array of studio tricks and instrumentation. On this summer's American Central Dust, however, Farrar and his again revamped company not only arrive on a genuine roots label (Rounder), but also with a winnowed sound that draws much of its considerable power from Farrar's arid, almost plaintive drone, a voice that's the aural equivalent of squinting into wind whipping across the prairie. Meanwhile the band, now including guitarist Chris Masterson and former Blood Orange steel player/keyboardist Mark Spencer, echoes that lean landscape with a pared down, often acoustic-oriented, ambling sound punctuated by abundant steel guitar and occasional keening fiddle from guest Eleanor Whitmore. And setting the bittersweet, edging-toward-epic tone is Farrar's outstanding collection of new songs, which grapple with the shredded American dream ("When the Wheels Don't Move"), alienation ("Exiles"), disaster on the water (the historical drama "Sultana"), mortality via the curious context of Keith Richards ("Cocaine and Ashes"), as well as love ("Dynamite") and salvation ("Jukebox of Steel"). With Sera Cahoone. 18+.
Sun., Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m., 2009