I don't know why, but I always feel I must take sides when it comes to discussions of Jay Farrar vs. Jeff Tweedy, Son Volt vs. Wilco. This wouldn't have been necessary, of course, had Uncle Tupelo stayed together as a band. That's an alt-tragedy we had no control over.
The split did allow us the opportunity to watch the progression of two great songwriters and musicians, and view the development of two terrific splinter bands. I suppose you could call that addition by subtraction.
But I must choose sides, so I'll say it now: I'm with Farrar, who was the unquestioned leader and mastermind of UT's trail-blazing sound. I need only Exhibit A to make my point: "Trace'', the first album Farrar produced with Son Volt after the the split-up of UT, is one of the favorites in my collection and has never been topped by either of the groups' follow-up efforts.
The occasional PSSST (Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout) is meant to uncover music that some of you might have missed and should consider putting your ears to, but there are times when it is simply an acknowledgement of brilliant work. "Trace'' is one of those rare, timeless albums that you never get tired of listening to. Take a breezy ride with some lyrics from "Wind'':
Switching it over to AM
Searching for a truer sound
Can't recall the call letters
Steel guitar and settle down
Catching an all-night station somewhere in Louisiana
It sounds like 1963, but for now it sounds like heaven
Jay Farrar may not have been built for the stage (as a previous poster recently pointed out). But his sturdy guitar playing, pain-inflected baritone warble and rich heartland lyrics kick the hell out of most everything I've heard since 1995, when "Trace'' was released.
May the wind take your troubles away...