Picks and Pans Review: Straightaways
As the title implies, Son Volt's sophomore effort is something of a road album. And the highway captured by the country-rockers is remarkably bleak—a shattered landscape where life has all the substance and meaning of a windblown tumble-weed. Take it from the murdered woman in "Been Set Free," who is more than eager to bid farewell to life. Then there's perpetually morose songwriter-guitarist Jay Farrar himself, who reminds us in "Creosote" that no matter how desperately you may seek a higher reason, "fate just runs you around." At this rate, Son Volt could become the house band for generation existential.
It's hard not to like the band's raw country sound, with its blend of fiddles, lap steel and crunchy guitar. Farrar has a distinct vision, and like Wilco—the other band that grew from the ashes of Uncle Tupelo—Son Volt isn't afraid to follow its muse beyond stylistic boundaries. Yet the relentless desolation eventually makes for a monotonous ride. (Warner Bros.)