Jay Farrar gets the blues

After Uncle Tupelo split in the early '90s, alt-country fans chose sides. You were either with Jeff Tweedy or Jay Farrar. In retrospect, it's a stupid choice however you slice it. Tweedy and Farrar were, and still are, distinctly different songwriters, and the discography of Tweedy's Wilco and Farrar's Son Volt bears that out. There's room for both.

It didn't take long for Wilco to veer wildly from its alt-country roots into noisy experimentalism and decidedly un-Southern pop-rock. Son Volt, on the other hand, is a more natural continuation of Uncle Tupelo — something the No Depression true believers could latch onto without much extra effort. Last year the band released Notes of Blue, a blues-inspired (though not consistently bluesy) collection of songs anchored by Farrar's unchanging, pleasingly haggard voice. “The Storm,” a pretty tune awash in open-tuned acoustic guitar, could lull a child to sleep, while the distorted bursts of guitar in “Cherokee St.” serves as more of a wake-up call.

“There will be times of injustice, times when there's more lost than found,” Farrar sings on “Back Against the Wall,” a fitting song for present-day America. (Safe bet)