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Pop - Released September 15, 1995 | Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Stereophile: Record To Die For
Uncle Tupelo ended in volleys of bitter acrimony between founding members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, and as most of Uncle Tupelo's final lineup joined Tweedy to form Wilco, Farrar set out to assemble a new band that suited his specifications. Teaming with UT's original drummer Mike Heidorn, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist, and bassist (and Dave's brother) Jim Boquist, Farrar's new group Son Volt started with the deep, resonant sound of his work with Uncle Tupelo and moved it several steps further, and the band's debut album, 1995's Trace, ultimately displayed his talent to better advantage than any album he made before or since. Sequenced to highlight the dynamic push and pull between fierce rockers like "Route" and "Drown," full of Farrar's Neil Young-styled electric guitar, and quieter and more thoughtful numbers like "Tear-Stained Eye" and "Windfall," Trace honored both sides of Farrar's musical personality, and the muscular but unpretentious attack of his backing band was made to order for these songs. And the mixed themes of freedom, disappointment, and betrayal that punctuate Farrar's lyrics clearly reflected his state of mind as he walked away from one band and into another. One could reasonably describe Trace as Jay Farrar's version of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, a watershed work where the artist occasionally looks to an unsatisfying past as he sets out on a bracing new adventure, and like All Things Must Pass it was a triumph that Farrar would never quite repeat as he created a body of work that was satisfying but never balanced songs, performances, and mood with the easy perfection he achieved here. However, when Trace appeared in 1995, it was hard not to believe Farrar had broken up Uncle Tupelo for all the right reasons, and it's still a powerful, beautifully crafted, and deeply moving set of songs. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Uncle Tupelo ended in volleys of bitter acrimony between founding members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, and as most of Uncle Tupelo's final lineup joined Tweedy to form Wilco, Farrar set out to assemble a new band that suited his specifications. Teaming with UT's original drummer Mike Heidorn, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist, and bassist (and Dave's brother) Jim Boquist, Farrar's new group Son Volt started with the deep, resonant sound of his work with Uncle Tupelo and moved it several steps further, and the band's debut album, 1995's Trace, ultimately displayed his talent to better advantage than any album he made before or since. Sequenced to highlight the dynamic push and pull between fierce rockers like "Route" and "Drown," full of Farrar's Neil Young-styled electric guitar, and quieter and more thoughtful numbers like "Tear-Stained Eye" and "Windfall," Trace honored both sides of Farrar's musical personality, and the muscular but unpretentious attack of his backing band was made to order for these songs. And the mixed themes of freedom, disappointment, and betrayal that punctuate Farrar's lyrics clearly reflected his state of mind as he walked away from one band and into another. One could reasonably describe Trace as Jay Farrar's version of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, a watershed work where the artist occasionally looks to an unsatisfying past as he sets out on a bracing new adventure, and like All Things Must Pass it was a triumph that Farrar would never quite repeat as he created a body of work that was satisfying but never balanced songs, performances, and mood with the easy perfection he achieved here. However, when Trace appeared in 1995, it was hard not to believe Farrar had broken up Uncle Tupelo for all the right reasons, and it's still a powerful, beautifully crafted, and deeply moving set of songs. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released March 29, 2019 | Transmit Sound

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Between 1987 and 1994, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy were in a group called Uncle Tupelo, one of the greatest Americana alternative country groups of the century. After they broke up, Tweedy continued the group under the new name of Wilco and Farrar went on to form Son Volt. Fifteen years later, Union not only perfectly captures the energy of Farrar’s group but it also shows that the fifty-year-old songwriter from Illinois still has the same style, unlike Tweedy who experimented a lot with Wilco’s style. The folk music in this 9th album from Son Volt is politically charged and touches on longstanding struggles in America that are still ongoing in 2019. Some songs from Union were even recorded in places with historical significance such as the Mother Jones Museum in Mount Olive which was dedicated to Mary Harris, a great American trade unionist and socialist activist. Others were recorded in the Woody Guthrie Centre in Tulsa which is dedicated to the folk music legend, Woody Guthrie. In the shadow of these historical icons, Jay Farrar and his fellow musicians make their convictions clear in this intense collection of 13 songs. © Clotilde Maréchal/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Uncle Tupelo ended in volleys of bitter acrimony between founding members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, and as most of Uncle Tupelo's final lineup joined Tweedy to form Wilco, Farrar set out to assemble a new band that suited his specifications. Teaming with UT's original drummer Mike Heidorn, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist, and bassist (and Dave's brother) Jim Boquist, Farrar's new group Son Volt started with the deep, resonant sound of his work with Uncle Tupelo and moved it several steps further, and the band's debut album, 1995's Trace, ultimately displayed his talent to better advantage than any album he made before or since. Sequenced to highlight the dynamic push and pull between fierce rockers like "Route" and "Drown," full of Farrar's Neil Young-styled electric guitar, and quieter and more thoughtful numbers like "Tear-Stained Eye" and "Windfall," Trace honored both sides of Farrar's musical personality, and the muscular but unpretentious attack of his backing band was made to order for these songs. And the mixed themes of freedom, disappointment, and betrayal that punctuate Farrar's lyrics clearly reflected his state of mind as he walked away from one band and into another. One could reasonably describe Trace as Jay Farrar's version of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, a watershed work where the artist occasionally looks to an unsatisfying past as he sets out on a bracing new adventure, and like All Things Must Pass it was a triumph that Farrar would never quite repeat as he created a body of work that was satisfying but never balanced songs, performances, and mood with the easy perfection he achieved here. However, when Trace appeared in 1995, it was hard not to believe Farrar had broken up Uncle Tupelo for all the right reasons, and it's still a powerful, beautifully crafted, and deeply moving set of songs. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Folk - Released February 17, 2017 | Transmit Sound

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In the grand tradition of AC/DC, the Ramones, and Robert Pollard, Jay Farrar is a guy who has essentially been making the same record over and over again throughout his career. That's not a bad thing; all of those artists have made plenty of great, powerful records that reflected a distinctive style that was theirs and theirs alone. Ever since Uncle Tupelo's March 16-20, 1992, where the divide between Farrar and Jeff Tweedy's writing styles became especially clear, Farrar's music has been dominated by his deep, thoughtful vocals, his strong, elemental melodies, and his bursts of Neil Young-style roughhouse guitar. Twenty-five years on, Farrar hasn't abandoned that formula, and while he puts a somewhat different spin on his songwriting on 2017's Notes of Blue, recorded with the latest edition of his band Son Volt, it's entirely obvious that this is Farrar's work less than 30 seconds into the first track, "Promise the World." Son Volt's lineup has been fluid since Farrar resurrected the band in 2005, but with Farrar at the helm their musical personality has remained stable. The title Notes of Blue refers to his recent fascination with vintage rural blues that informed this batch of songs, but the lyrical fragments scavenged from ancient blues numbers and the bursts of slide guitar don't distract much from Son Volt's trademark roots rock attack. Farrar is still a commanding vocalist, his guitar work remains powerful and muscular, and this new edition of Son Volt (Mark Spencer on bass, slide guitar, and piano, Gary Hunt on fiddle, Jason Kardong on pedal steel, and Jacob Edwards on drums) sounds taut and convincing. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | New Rounder

Jay Farrar resurrected Son Volt in 2005 after his solo career seemingly ran out of gas, and the two albums that followed -- Okemah and the Melody of Riot and The Search -- were the best and most compelling music he'd made since Son Volt's masterful debut Trace in 1995. However, the new albums didn't connect with an especially large audience, and the band was dropped by Sony/BMG; 2009's American Central Dust, the third set from Son Volt 2.0, has been released by the venerable independent roots music label Rounder Records, and while there's little telling if it was dictated by finance or esthetics, the album sounds austere in a way its immediate predecessors did not. Okemah and The Search found Farrar and his new bandmates edging into new musical territory while embracing a bigger studio sound; by comparison, American Central Dust feels more organic and intimate, recalling the simplicity of Trace without delivering the bracing rock & roll of songs like "Drown" or "Route." However, if American Central Dust takes a few steps back in terms of energy and impact, Farrar still sounds thoroughly engaged as both a songwriter and performer, and his band -- Chris Masterson on guitars, Mark Spencer on keyboards and steel guitars, Andrew DuPlantis on bass, and Dave Bryson on drums -- is tight and sympathetic, finding just the right angle to approach this material. And from the fiery love of "Dynamite," the environmental and economic commentary of "When the Wheels Don't Move," and "Down to the Wire," the tribute to the joys of a good honky tonk in "Jukebox of Steel," and the glimpse into Keith Richards' psyche of "Cocaine and Ashes," Farrar has rarely spoken his mind so clearly in his songs as he does here, and if he still reaches for a spectral feel, his meanings are more clearly felt than ever. American Central Dust doesn't have the feel of a step into new territory the way Son Volt's past two albums did, but it consolidates old strengths and confirms Jay Farrar is still an artist worth caring about to 20 years after Uncle Tupelo cut their first album. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2013 | New Rounder

Uncle Tupelo pretty much established the subgenre of alt-country in 1990 with the release of No Depression, and the band's two main songwriters and singers, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, seemed to fulfill the promise that Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds had mapped out over two decades before, a perfect synthesis of rock and country. When Uncle Tupelo split in 1993, Tweedy, always more on the pop side of things, formed Wilco, which enjoyed commercial and critical success, while Farrar, who mapped out the moodier, more hangdog country side of things, formed Son Volt, a band with no aspirations for the charts, indie or otherwise, and while Son Volt's albums have been strong, interesting, and decidedly uncommercial ever since, they all lead, it seems, to this new one, Honky Tonk, which arrives at last squarely in country territory (more specifically, the Bakersfield country of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard), with nary an electric guitar in sight. Full of slow and midtempo waltzes and shuffles, and framed and led by pedal steel guitars and twin fiddles, along with Farrar's weary, never-in-a-big-hurry, laid-back (but somehow mysteriously intense) vocals, Honky Tonk is full of a beautiful, thoughtful, and almost Zen-like approach to life, all set against a classic old-school Bakersfield country backdrop. Songs here like "Hearts and Minds," "Wild Side," "Bakersfield," "Angel of the Blues," and "Shine On" aren't rave-ups, and aren't bitter barroom apologies, but are filled instead with a kind of stubborn hope and joy, made perhaps even more powerful for being from the 21st century while sounding like they came from the century before. The whole album accumulates in a powerful, meditative way, and its themes are less about drinking and trying to forget the past than they are about making peace with the past and trying to remember it and use it as a spark and a springboard to the future. Honky Tonk is country facing forward informed by the past. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Reggae - Released September 25, 1998 | Warner Records

While Son Volt's first two albums, Trace and Straightaways, received critical acclaim, they are both very restrained and sparse works underlain with languidness. These albums hinted, in their best moments, at Son Volt's potential to both write beautiful songs and rock out, but the band never seemed to completely let loose and turn it up to 11. Part of this may stem from their eclectic mix of musical influences. While the juxtaposition of styles ranging from country to bar-band rock & roll has been the key to Son Volt's sound, it has also been a point of contention for those who have criticized them for not knowing what sort of band they wanted to be. Wide Swing Tremolo represents an attempt to somewhat break the mold of the earlier releases, especially from the intensely sparse Straightaways. Wide Swing Tremolo is a wide-open, rocking album with precious little of the overt country influences found on previous Son Volt works. Instead, this album is driven by R.E.M.-like arpeggio guitar riffs and muscular, warm rhythms. It's a strong album. © Matthew Hilburn /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 31, 2018 | Transmit Sound

While there was never much question that Jay Farrar was the guiding light behind Son Volt, he's managed to extinguish any lingering doubts about that issue with Okemah and the Melody of Riot, his first album under the Son Volt handle since 1998's Wide Swing Tremolo. While Okemah sure sounds and feels like a Son Volt album, as it happens Farrar is the only musician in the band's new lineup who had ever played with Son Volt before, which for good or ill firmly establishes him as the sole architect of the group's musical approach. While it's anyone's guess why Farrar turned from his solo career back to the Son Volt format (especially since it's obvious Farrar is the man in charge under either circumstance), whatever the billing the results are impressive -- Okemah and the Melody of Riot is a compelling, strongly focused work that stands as Farrar's best music since Son Volt's debut album, 1994's Trace. While Farrar's songwriting is still in his usual enigmatic mode on Okemah, there is a noticeably stronger lyrical focus here, especially on the (apparently) anti-Bush screeds "Jet Pilot" and "Ipecac" and the rabble-rousing opening cut, "Bandages & Scars"; Farrar obviously has something to say about the state of post-millennial America, and if the letter of the message is vague, the passion of his delivery speaks volumes. And while Farrar's solo albums had an unfortunate habit of meandering, Okemah thankfully sounds muscular and driven, with Farrar and Brad Rice bringing a healthy share of guitar firepower to the songs and bassist Andrew DuPlantis and drummer Dave Bryson charging the songs with lean but sinewy force. If much of Jay Farrar's music since the breakup of Uncle Tupelo sounds like the work of a man looking for a fresh direction and a true sound, Okemah and the Melody of Riot finds him with a firm grasp of his talent and a fresh reserve of conviction; it's a bracing and welcome return to form for an important artist. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 8, 1997 | Warner Records

Although none of the songs on Straightaways immediately jump off the grooves, as was the case with the band's brilliant debut, Trace, repeated spins reveal a strong effort nonetheless. Whereas former Uncle Tupelo partner Jeff Tweedy and his band, Wilco, used its sophomore release to explore new territory, Son Volt leader and songwriter Jay Farrar keeps his band mining the same country-folk vein that Uncle Tupelo quarried. There are plenty of threads to connect Straightaways to Trace, such as the expressive playing of multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist on guitars, fiddle, banjo, and lap steel, and Farrar's forlorn vocal delivery, which could give even the weakest song emotional power. On Straightaways, his songs live on the same late-night backwoods rural highways that Trace inhabited, with song titles like "Creosote" and "Cemetery Savior" conjuring up dark imagery. The album contains plenty of high points: the aforementioned songs, as well as the lonesome "Back Into Your World" and "Last Minute Shakedown." And the only place it comes up short is the lyrics -- unlike Trace, whose songs "Windfall" and "Tear Stained Eye" stood by themselves and provided a universal feel and emotion that was easily grasped, much of the lyrical content of Straightaways seems open-ended and fragmented, with the intensity building on the haunting instrumental arrangements and Farrar's affecting vocal phrasing. © Jack Leaver /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 23, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

The seminal alt-country band Uncle Tupelo seemed poised on the verge of a major commercial breakthrough in 1994 when, to the surprise of many (including his bandmates), Jay Farrar quit the band to form Son Volt, in which he wouldn't have to share his creative vision with another songwriter. Son Volt's first album, 1995's Trace, was a beautiful and striking set of songs whose emotional power and soulful resonance suggested Farrar had made a shrewd choice in going out on his own. Then a funny thing happened -- Son Volt made two more albums that were solid and heartfelt but nowhere near as satisfying as Trace, and in 2000 Farrar put the group on hiatus, preferring to record and tour under his own name with a shifting set of musicians. In whittling Son Volt's history down to one disc and 20 songs, one might expect that A Retrospective: 1995-2000 would play to the genuine strengths of their body of work, but instead this compilation does as much to point to the group's flaws. A Retrospective peaks with its first four tracks -- three songs from Trace and a duet with Kelly Willis on Townes Van Zandt's "Rex's Blues," recorded for a benefit compilation. From that point on, much as Son Volt's second album got stuck in a mid-tempo rut that it never quite escaped, A Retrospective captures the sound of Farrar calling up the same beautifully sad late night vibe over and over again, with only the occasional rocker happening along to break the monotony (and anyone who saw Son Volt live knows they were a band who could rock out powerfully when the mood struck them) and Mike Heidorn, Jim Boquist, and Dave Boquist struggling to add weight and muscle to Farrar's increasingly similar songs. Fans will doubtless be drawn by the wealth of rare and unreleased material included (including a pair of home-recorded demos, some hard to find covers, and live radio recordings), but while there are a few glorious moments on A Retrospective, too much of this collection captures the sound of a major artist stuck in third gear, and that's certainly not the way this disc needed to sound. (Ironically, a new Son Volt album, Okemah and the Melody of Riot, was released two months after this compilation appeared, though Farrar was the only member of the original lineup to participate in Son Volt 2.0.) © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Folk - Released April 6, 2018 | Transmit Sound

When Jay Farrar resurrected the sound and approach (if not the personnel) of Son Volt for the 2005 album Okemah and the Melody of Riot, it was a welcome return to what Farrar does best after the poorly focused meanderings of much of his solo work. But while embracing the Son Volt handle energized his muse on Okemah, the second album from Son Volt 2.0, The Search, suggests it has also given him a clearer vision in his search for new sonic territory. The melodic textures of The Search are very much in the mode of Son Volt's early work, but Farrar has offered a few noticeable change-ups in how he approaches the material, most noticeably the addition of Derry Deborja on keyboards, whose washes of organ and piano add new colors to the band's palate. Farrar also takes a few other chances here that pay off, particularly with the punchy soul horns on "The Picture," and though it remains clear that Farrar is in charge of this band, The Search finds this lineup of Son Volt growing into a sound of their own, with the rhythm section of Andrew DuPlantis and Dave Bryson sounding more comfortable but also lending a stronger backbone on the more rocking material (especially the title track) and Brad Rice given more room to blend his guitar work with Farrar's Neil Young-influenced leads. And while Farrar isn't likely to get ever over his shyness about direct declarative statements in his lyrics, like Okemah The Search is clearly informed by the political and social malaise of America under George W. Bush, and Farrar's compassionate anger on "Satellite," "Adrenaline and Heresy," and the title tune is bracing and powerful. In their original incarnation, Son Volt made a brilliant debut and followed it up with a genuine disappointment, but the second time around, Farrar has followed strength with strength, and The Search is a potent reminder of why Farrar was and is one of the watershed artists of the alt-country movement. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

Uncle Tupelo ended in volleys of bitter acrimony between founding members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, and as most of Uncle Tupelo's final lineup joined Tweedy to form Wilco, Farrar set out to assemble a new band that suited his specifications. Teaming with UT's original drummer Mike Heidorn, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist, and bassist (and Dave's brother) Jim Boquist, Farrar's new group Son Volt started with the deep, resonant sound of his work with Uncle Tupelo and moved it several steps further, and the band's debut album, 1995's Trace, ultimately displayed his talent to better advantage than any album he made before or since. Sequenced to highlight the dynamic push and pull between fierce rockers like "Route" and "Drown," full of Farrar's Neil Young-styled electric guitar, and quieter and more thoughtful numbers like "Tear-Stained Eye" and "Windfall," Trace honored both sides of Farrar's musical personality, and the muscular but unpretentious attack of his backing band was made to order for these songs. And the mixed themes of freedom, disappointment, and betrayal that punctuate Farrar's lyrics clearly reflected his state of mind as he walked away from one band and into another. One could reasonably describe Trace as Jay Farrar's version of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, a watershed work where the artist occasionally looks to an unsatisfying past as he sets out on a bracing new adventure, and like All Things Must Pass it was a triumph that Farrar would never quite repeat as he created a body of work that was satisfying but never balanced songs, performances, and mood with the easy perfection he achieved here. However, when Trace appeared in 1995, it was hard not to believe Farrar had broken up Uncle Tupelo for all the right reasons, and it's still a powerful, beautifully crafted, and deeply moving set of songs. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released January 18, 2019 | Transmit Sound

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Folk - Released January 13, 2017 | Transmit Sound

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

Uncle Tupelo ended in volleys of bitter acrimony between founding members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, and as most of Uncle Tupelo's final lineup joined Tweedy to form Wilco, Farrar set out to assemble a new band that suited his specifications. Teaming with UT's original drummer Mike Heidorn, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist, and bassist (and Dave's brother) Jim Boquist, Farrar's new group Son Volt started with the deep, resonant sound of his work with Uncle Tupelo and moved it several steps further, and the band's debut album, 1995's Trace, ultimately displayed his talent to better advantage than any album he made before or since. Sequenced to highlight the dynamic push and pull between fierce rockers like "Route" and "Drown," full of Farrar's Neil Young-styled electric guitar, and quieter and more thoughtful numbers like "Tear-Stained Eye" and "Windfall," Trace honored both sides of Farrar's musical personality, and the muscular but unpretentious attack of his backing band was made to order for these songs. And the mixed themes of freedom, disappointment, and betrayal that punctuate Farrar's lyrics clearly reflected his state of mind as he walked away from one band and into another. One could reasonably describe Trace as Jay Farrar's version of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, a watershed work where the artist occasionally looks to an unsatisfying past as he sets out on a bracing new adventure, and like All Things Must Pass it was a triumph that Farrar would never quite repeat as he created a body of work that was satisfying but never balanced songs, performances, and mood with the easy perfection he achieved here. However, when Trace appeared in 1995, it was hard not to believe Farrar had broken up Uncle Tupelo for all the right reasons, and it's still a powerful, beautifully crafted, and deeply moving set of songs. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 23, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Country - Released February 15, 2019 | Transmit Sound

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Pop/Rock - Released January 3, 2008 | Transmit Sound - Legacy

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Folk - Released December 9, 2016 | Transmit Sound