Song 177: Son Volt, “Last Minute Shakedown” (1997)

Son_Volt-Straightaways-Frontal

Straightaways, Son Volt’s second record, has plenty of loud, fast moments—“Caryatid Easy” is a barnstormer of an opening track—but it’s the quieter songs, the ones that remind me of the dog days of summer, that I like best. In particular, “Last Minute Shakedown” makes me think about driving around Cape Cod the summer between junior and senior years of high school.

I’d listen to Straightaways as I drove from my job as a day camp counselor to the local “farm stand” (a small general store-type place, really), where I swept the floors and stocked the shelves. The transition between the two jobs was always the best part of the day: cruising around Brewster and Orleans (as much as one can cruise in the boat-like Pontiac Safari), blasting the air conditioning, decompressing before being hollered at about boxes of cucumbers.

“Last Minute Shakedown” is a hot, hazy song, one that seems to live between punishing humidity and the impending thunderstorm. “Out of chaos comes order, and back again,” sings Jay Farrar, as if the pattern of good and bad is the natural order of things. We go from one day to another, from highs to lows, and everything in between. Some days it’s a bull to drive, some days it’s a walking dream.

The bridge of this song, that “it’s not easy to change” section, is what gets me every time. I’m not sure why this is—it’s not very complicated, and it’s not very different from the rest of the song—but it’s very pretty and sweet, simple as it is. Farrar, even when he’s singing a fierce song like “Caryatid Easy,” always sounds a little tired, as if he’s been through some shit. The bridge is the sound of a man who knows how hard it is to change, who knows what you’re going through.

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