A Rolling Stone reviewer described multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist as Son Volt’s “secret weapon.” It nearly makes him blush.
Boquist says it’s a very nice compliment, but he deflects the praise and prefers to think of the trail-blazing Americana quartet as a unit.
Singer-guitarist Jay Farrar maps out the songs lyrically, and Boquist’s brother Jim (bass) and drummer Mike Heidorn set the rhythm, but Dave Boquist’s talents at guitar, fiddle, banjo and lap steel give Son Volt its trademark country-tinged grace.
It’s never been more apparent than on Son Volt’s second Warner Bros. album, “Straightaways.”
Learning a multitude of instruments is just a matter of having patience and practicing hard, Boquist said recently from his home in St. Paul, Minn.
“A lot of people have a penchant for being patience; everyone else in this band certainly has that ability,” he said. “But I guess I have a little bit more patience with myself. From a real young age, I was picking out different parts of songs, what the lead guitar was playing and what the rhythm guitar was doing. I really wanted to know how to play all those things.”
Boquist said his parents helped nurture that musical sixth sense.
“Our father, in the 1950s, traveled in a big band and did a lot of road shows,” he said. “Then the big band era sort of died out, so he never really made a full living out of it, but he always played around the house. Our mother played the piano and was always very encouraging to us. She bought my first banjo at a garage sale. It was just an atmosphere of learning and a love for music.”
Boquist said he first played the lap steel during sessions for Son Volt’s 1995 debut album, “Trace.” It didn’t make him long to grasp it.
“Sometimes I think the learning part takes some sort of math aptitude or something,” he said, “because there are a lot of intervals, and it takes time to learn how to play the different keys. All I can say is, I can stick with something, but again, everyone in this band has that. Everyone plays real good guitars, and Jay can pick up a fiddle and play a little, and Jim plays real nice piano, which I hope we can incorporate more after a while.”
Boquist cites other multi-instrumentalists, such as David Lindley, John Hartford and the late Jerry Garcia, as personal influences.
“I look at what they play and sometimes I think what I do pales in comparison,” he said. “For myself, I always want to do more, and there are other people who do this thing, playing many instruments, and do it very well.”
“Straightaways” debuted at a respectable No. 44 on Billboard’s album chart in early May, but it quickly faded away after three weeks. Boquist isn’t worried.
“We haven’t made it a priority to get a video out or do a lot of press,” he said. “I don’t think we’re exactly a publicity band. None of us are extremely ambitious that way. What we’re more interested in is recording and touring. We love playing for people, that’s what we’re all about.”