The group formed after Farrar met Jim and Dave Boquist during the final Uncle Tupelo tour. Together with former Uncle Tupelo drummer Mike Heidorn, the band rehearsed and recorded in the Minneapolis area in late 1994. The group performed its first concert at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis on June 16, 1995. While half of the band was rooted in the Minneapolis area, Farrar and Heidorn lived in the St. Louis area, and the band used both cities as bases for its operations during the first couple of years.
Hiatus & Return:
Son Volt was dropped from their record label contract with Warner Bros. Records, and announced a hiatus after their 1999 tour. Beginning in 2001, Jay Farrar released several solo efforts that postponed further releases from Son Volt. Farrar reformed with the original members of Son Volt to record a song for a tribute album for Alejandro Escovedo. The sessions reportedly went so well that Farrar and the other band members intended to record once again in the autumn of 2004. Just prior to the sessions, however, negotiations with the other bands members apparently reached a standstill when they refused to show up to the planned recording session that Farrar had arranged. Having already booked studio time, Farrar formed a new version of the band with a different line-up and released an album on Transmit Sound/Sony Legacy, Okemah and the Melody of Riot, in 2005. 2006 saw the release of a live CD and DVD called Six String Belief. In 2007 the band released a studio album called The Search. A new Son Volt album, American Central Dust, was released by Rounder Records on July 7, 2009.
Son Volt's music ranges from quiet folk/country ballads reminiscent of Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding, to barhouse rockers in the spirit of Neil Young with Crazy Horse. Outside of the common Neil Young and Crazy Horse comparisons, Son Volt is often compared to The Jayhawks and Automatic for the People era R.E.M.. Often considered a staple band of the alternative country movement, their music is perhaps better described as genre-spanning traditional American music.
Son Volt's first album, Trace, met with critical acclaim and topped many "best-of" lists in 1995, despite not being a large commercial success. Two follow-up albums (1997's Straightaways and 1998's Wide Swing Tremolo) continued in the same vein. A Retrospective: 1995-2000, released in 2005, gathered highlights from this era, along with previously unreleased recordings.