While Son Volt's first two albums, Trace and Straightaways, received critical acclaim, they are both very restrained and sparse works underlain with languidness. These albums hinted, in their best moments, at Son Volt's potential to both write beautiful songs and rock out, but the band never seemed to completely let loose and turn it up to 11. Part of this may stem from their eclectic mix of musical influences. While the juxtaposition of styles ranging from country to bar-band rock & roll has been the key to Son Volt's sound, it has also been a point of contention for those who have criticized them for not knowing what sort of band they wanted to be. Wide Swing Tremolo represents an attempt to somewhat break the mold of the earlier releases, especially from the intensely sparse Straightaways. Wide Swing Tremolo is a wide-open, rocking album with precious little of the overt country influences found on previous Son Volt works. Instead, this album is driven by R.E.M.-like arpeggio guitar riffs and muscular, warm rhythms. It's a strong album.
AllMusic Review by Matthew Hilburn