When Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, his former partner in Uncle Tupelo, split up in
1994, the common wisdom was that Tweedy was the melodic and optimistic Paul
McCartney of the team, while Farrar was the cathartic and moody John Lennon.
That analogy seemed to stand up when Wilco's debut disc A.M. was sweet
and tuneful, while the first album by Farrar's Son Volt, Trace, was
angst-ridden country-rock. Tweedy transcended his pigeonhole with the diverse,
ambitious Being There, but Farrar remains trapped in his on Son Volt's
follow-up Straightaways, a more laid-back, understated version of
Trace. Farrar does one thing really well, and that is his use of a
gravelly baritone and suspended guitar chords to capture the exhaustion and
desperation of a man at the end of his rope. Unfortunately, he tends to do it
over and over and over again.