I agree Sky Blue Sky is overly mellow. But at the right time and place, it works. There is nothing easy-listening about A Ghost is Born or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, however. These are smart pop records that are incredibly well-produced. The Neil Young-style guitar work on A Ghost... is addictive. The solos and frills are perfectly placed. Those two albums get replayed alot around here.
As for uncle tupelo. It's really good bar-rock, but there're alot of decent bar-rock bands. I see Wilco a an improvement over UT, which I do like quite a bit.
Son Volt... Someone school me on where I should start with these guys.