The splintering of Uncle Tupelo into Jay Farrar's Son Volt and Jeff Tweedy's Wilco divided the alt country scene as bitterly as a civil war. One felt obligated to pull for one side or the other and knock the competition for stagnating or selling out. It was silly, really, since the alternative roots rock scene now has two great bands for its money, where before it had the one. Trace, Son Volt's 1995 debut, runs shank to flank with Uncle Tupelo's Anodyne as one of the finest documents of the No Depression scene. Dave Boquist's exquisite touch on Dobro, fiddle, banjo and lap steel guitar lends tunes like "Windfall" and "Tear Stained Eye" the crisp warmth of sun-dried sheets. Ace production prompts every note to snap off the stings with its tail wagging. Trace is a beautiful, honest record that embraces life with a bear hug. The follow-up Straightaways was a continuation of the themes and textures Farrar had captured on the debut, while Wide String Tremolo pushed the band in a straighter rock/pop direction. Further Son Volt albums continue to rock hard and bite with more political venom as Jay Farrar flexes his First Amendment muscle, waxing protest against the Bush administration like Woody Guthrie with a distortion pedal.