Jay Farrar didn’t know he was creating a whole new genre when Uncle Tupelo began, just as he didn’t set out to toughen up Americana with Son Volt, emerging with a band that merged Neil Young’s terse rock sensibility and Young’s Topanga acoustic sense.

Intentional or not, that’s what happened when three Midwestern kids got together to start a band. Today, Uncle Tupelo is almost mythic, and Son Volt continues to showcase one of its truest voices. When Farrar hears that, he pauses for a moment to consider what’s being said. Thoughtful, with that Midwestern humility that eschews praise, he assesses first before answering. Finally, he offers, “That age, you’re really soaking in so many influences. And so many experiences. It’s all so new, and it means so much. Even the way we listened to music in the late ‘80s, the waiting for records to come out and all the anticipation.”

“Everything wasn’t instant, so there was mystique, especially [for bands] from another part of the country. You know, the way they dressed and what they played. You went to shows to see it, to watch it all take shape.”

That was how people felt about both of Farrar’s much buzzed about bands. With alt-country seemingly rising from the grooves of Tupelo’s Gram Parsons-inflected indie No Depression, Son Volt’s debut, Trace, landed on all the critics’ Best of 1995 lists.

And as was often the realm of the second wave of college radio, regionalism was a badge of honor. If Athens, Ga. had given the world R.E.M., the B-52s and Pylon, and Minneapolis had spawned the Replacements, Husker Du, Babes in Toyland and Soul Asylum, then Farrar was going to give the Belleville, Ill. and St. Louis, Mo., realms a voice.

Whether the slightly nasal basic rock of Drown, the anthemic thrum of Live Free or the finger-picked acoustic guitar’n’steel/banjo-speckled Tear Stained Eye, Trace established a classic American band. It spoke of the heartland, absolutely, but was also redolent of Levon Helm’s braying populism, a bit of The Byrds’ jangle, a hint of X’s cowpunk, or even the Minutemen’s hardcore thrash.

“We were definitely conscious of trying to put our own unique Midwestern stamp on our own kind of thing,” Farrar says, turning the influences over. “The Byrds, certainly. We looked at it as a continuum — elementary country and folk into rock. We were aware it had been done before, but we knew there was room.”

Over the course of nine albums, including Wide Swing Tremolo, Honky Tonk, American Central Dust and Notes of Blue, the cumulative effect led to this spring’s personal and political Union. The album is equally compelling for the way guitars sweep and push as the downbeats pump true, but Farrar realizes that cause-driven music has its limits.

“I was conscious of the idea I don’t want to do a record that’s political every time, but I felt compelled to write about a lot of what I was reading. I literally pulled from the headlines, because how can you avoid it? It’s everywhere, and it gets into everything. So, Union touches on the cultural divide that’s being stoked by greed and driven by hate and anger.”

There’s no audible stridency in the voice coming down the telephone line. His tone is underscored with a concern for a world he sees turning mean, betraying what he believes are its core values. And he realizes there’s precedent for what he’s doing, even calling out the White House’s lack of vision on Reality Winner.

“Lynyrd Skynyrd put their fingers on it,” he explains, “when they sing, ‘In Birmingham, they love the governor. . .’ They weren’t afraid to speak up or speak out. Any kind of protest music is disappearing, fading out as people are so afraid of losing their audience.

“Neil Young was an influence. I grew up listening to him. Dylan, Woody Guthrie, it’s a connected chain of the same kind of political songwriting that all leads right to the stuff coming out of England in the late 70s. The Clash and the Sex Pistols who were so much about the politics. Punk rock became extreme in that, too.”

Citing a holy quadrinity of “Beatles/Stones straight to Clash and Pistols,” he talks about how punk was the thing to thrash along to, to fire up a young man. But he also understands the pastoral notion of growing up in the flyover, the folkie story-telling and deeper connections. He also drew on the literature of Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut and even William Faulkner.

To that end, he wrote a memoir called Falling Cars And Junkyard Dogs, of which The Chicago Tribune wrote: “This slim book swerves far from the traditional memoir form. Instead, here is a collection of vignettes. . . in a frank but haphazard style, the short-shorts read as if they’re ripped from the road, written on the back of a set list in the idle hours before showtime.”

Beyond the moments with Keith Richards, Townes Van Zandt, Doug Sahm and June Carter Cash, there are soft focus considerations of his father, who became a musician later in life, bits and pieces on the machinations of his bands. But as much, he uses the memoir as a way to find even more music.

“I’m always looking for inspiration, looking for the next challenge,” he says. “Different tunings open up new things and looking elsewhere, writing something like that was another way to access it.”

Awareness with a side order of hope, Union is the tug your conscience needs — whether in the droning lope of The Symbol, which takes on the immigration crisis in very specific terms, the swirling minor-keyed Truth To Power Blues or the indictment of While Rome Burns. Performed live, the foment is even more fulfilling. If albums mean 10 or 12 songs need to get written, it’s what comes after that animates Farrar.

“[Writing] is a wonderful canvas. But playing them keeps you inspired and going. The idea of taking them out on the road, playing them for people and bringing them together to hear it, that’s what the music is supposed to do.”

Son Volt plays Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs on Saturday, August 31 at 8 p.m. Visit mvconcertseries.com for tickets and information.