"From the ashes of Uncle Tupelo we've been blessed with Son Volt! This is one of the best Americana albums I've ever heard. I always preferred the Jay Farrar-penned Uncle Tupelo songs, so Trace is a slice of alt/country heaven. Trace is also easily the best of the three Son Volt releases. My favorite song here is the melancholy Tear-Stained Eye...beautiful! Steve Earle fans might recognize the opening track, Windfall. He was covering it every night on the El Corazon tour. Fararrar wrote every song on Trace except for Mystifies Me, which was written by Ron Wood(Rolling Stones/Faces). There really isn't a weak song on Trace. It is a seamless trip through loud distortion, pedal steels, and heartache ballads. Jay Farrar is my generation's Neil Young...and this is the best thing he's been involved with since Tupelo's No Depression. If you dig Green On Red, Neil Young, the spirit of Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle or intelligent, emotional masterpieces in general...then you need look no further. Trace is a twilight ride in cool weather with the windows down. It's the musical equivalent of I-10."
Gordon Smith | san jose, ca United States | 12/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album was quite a bit Left-field for me when I got it. I dug Johnny Cash a little bit, and some of the old school country dudes, but I was essentially an indie rock/ avante garde jazz kinda guy. But Trace rocked me. I would listen to it on rainy days commuting to school in my car, because it just felt so right. It became very private music for me, as I didn't want my friends knowing I was into something so "country". But I eventually began to see how this music was far more honestly populist than Rage Against the Machine or REM or Ben Harper or whatever else most college kids were digging. Son Volt just didn't really put on airs about being real; they were real. So eventually I got into Uncle Tupelo and Wilco as well as Jay's solo work, but this is the best of the bunch by my reckoning. Great songs, great singing, just really artistically sound. And excellent for rainy day driving. Actually it's raining right now. Bye!"
Lost Moment of Promise
Tim Schermbeck | Dallas, TX | 11/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"1994. Radio was suddenly, briefly, free of sound-alikes. Pearl Jam and Blues Traveler and Son Volt were played side by side. Any band might emerge as the Next Big Thing.
Jay Farrar had written one of the most brilliant rock singles of the decade, "Drown," and it was everywhere, utterly out of place and perfectly beautiful amidst the grunge sludge and the epic jam band singles of the moment. A three-minute promise. A raw blend of country, punk, and existential loneliness: "Living right is easy; What goes wrong, you're causing it."
On the plains, a hundred thousand young men filled with sunny-day angst, a sorrow neither parallel nor at odds with Seattle's rain-induced joylessness, heard for the first time their voice, their cry, their raging against the shrinking of the world and its possibilities.
Here was something different from John Mellencamp, a sound come off the prairie that spoke for those of a new generation whose entire existence had in the previous decade been reduced by record executives and money-minded producers to a strummed acoustic guitar and some jaunty fiddle solos spooled onto tape and then off again over the FM airwaves.
This was a deeper song resounding over the wide, flat middle of the country. A promise that simultaneously summarized all that had come before - Johhny Cash, Chuck Berry, Gram Parsons, Jason and the Scorchers, the Clash, the Replacements, and even Nirvana - and at the same time looked toward a horizon falling ever away. Possibility. Truth on the radio. Places unnoticed, unspoken of, perhaps even unseen. Stories untold. Lives a person might recognize.
It's hard to imagine that moment if you were not there. If you came of age a year or a decade too late, if you have only known the homogenized sound of the late 1990s and early 21st century. To hear this record now and to know it was once a viable commerical venture is to mourn what has been lost. A moment of promise.
Jay Farrar is still making records, but they aren't on the radio. The prospect that your local deejay (if such a thing still exists) will spin one is laughable. Radio crept away from risk, from honesty, from what could have been. John Mellencamp remains, to many, the only voice of the heartland in American rock and roll.
Switch over to the AM. Perhaps you'll find a truer sound."
A "Trace" of genius
Stephen C Tady | San Lorenzo, CA | 12/14/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the five records I would take with me to the proverbial remote island. I never get tired of this classic piece of work. I would not want to be rescued. Not a mediocre tune on this thing. Superb. There is a bar in San Francisco (Club 101 on Van Ness) that has this on the jukebox and I go there simply to hear these songs.Sounds like 1963, but for now, it sounds like heaven...."
Not all break-ups are bad.....
Rob | Palm Bch, FL by way of Leucadia, CA | 01/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Son Volt, a band as cool and enigmatic as their name suggests, have given us with their debut album just what one would have expected them to. Assuming, that is, one were aware of the musical lineage from which the band was born. Their previous incarnation, the well-liked Uncle Tupelo, spent its formative years cultivating the now not-so-indie Country/Rock sound, which began gaining popularity in the early 90s. One wouldn't get much argument though in suggesting that Trace is the genre's most impressive work to date. Jay Farrar, the group's core member, could have easily gotten away with simply putting his name on the album cover - he is as much the group himself as a Neil Young or a Lyle Lovett, other artist's who depend heavily on the contributions of their bandmates. He can in effect do it all. Singing, playing guitar and harmonica, songwriting - all seem to come quite easily to the somewhat withdrawn frontman. In fact, having seen them perform live, I can tell you that being the center of attention seems to be the one part of the job that Farrar isn't too comfortable with. So he's no Sting, big deal. Take nothing away from the rest of the band, however. From Uncle Tupelo, Farrar took one lone member, drummer Mike Heidorn. Very solid on the skins, Heidorn does well to keep his playing simple, just as these subtly powerful songs require. He shows us very occasionaly that he could do a lot more (on "Drown" and "Loose String", most notably), but dutifully plays his part as needed. The rest of the quartet is comprised of a pair of brothers, Jim and Dave Boquist ( musical origins unknown to this reviewer), who are superb musicians themselves. Jim, the bassist, performs quite adequately as Farrar's backing vocal while brother Jim shows his versatility on any number of stringed instruments, including lap steel, fiddle and banjo to name a few. There is a fifth man, pedal steel player Eric Heywood, who contributes greatly to the the record's sound, although credited modestly on the jacket under the "With" heading. The album opens with the infectious "Windfall", a song which, while a bit sunnier than the rest of the album, gives the listener a perfect indication of the overall musical tone of the record. While Country/Rock may be the closest thing to a name for this sound, it seems to be a tad more rock than country. Folk rock seasoned with a little front porch rootsiness, maybe. The heavier tunes on the album do plenty to get the andrenaline flowing. In short, if you put this record on thinking it will help you get to sleep at night, you've clearly gotten the wrong idea. Jay Farrar, who boasts a very distinctive voice, impresses us equally with how he uses it. Singing his own well-written lyrics, he seems highly conscious of how he wants to let the vocal itself act as an instrument, gracefully weaving through a carefully selected series of notes. This effort pays off, transforming what might have otherwise been very skippable tracks like "Out of the Picture" into some very effective songs, indeed. In fact, one of the best attributes of the new band is that Farrar handles lead vocal duties by himself, whereas in Uncle Tupelo they were shared equally between Farrar and co-frontman Jeff Tweedy. Here we have Jay all to ourselves, and we're better off for it (Tweedy is a fine singer himself, but..). Why that band broke up exactly, who's to say. All I know is that Jay Farrar has as much genuine musical talent as anyone of his generation. Listening to Trace, we begin to see just what he intends to do with it."