Posts Tagged ‘Wilco’

Introducing our cover of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco’s “I Know What It’s Like.” We always love throwing a cover or two in the set, and were gearing up to learn this one as a band so we could play it on our Collector release tour, but we all know what happened to that. We hope that somebody might find some comfort in our version of this song like we’ve found comfort in Mister Tweedy’s original. I’ve been a big Wilco fan for the past few years and picked up Jeff Tweedy’s album Warm after Brendan had played it in the car a few times the track- “I Know What It’s Like” really stood out to me as a great pop/rock song that I could put my own spin on- the minimal structure of the original gave room for creative license. I sped up the original recording a decent amount so I’d have something to play along to and off I went. We decided it’d be fun to present the finished product as an interim release; post-Collector and pre-whatever’s next.

We always love throwing a fun cover or two in the set, and were gearing up to learn this one as a band so we could play it on our Collector release tour, but we all know what happened to that. My hope is that somebody who is a fan of Disq or Wilco (or both, or neither) could find some comfort in our version of this song.
Isaac deBroux-Slone
June 2020

Released on 30th June 2020 Saddle Creek Composer: Jeff Tweedy

Over the last few decades, it’s becoming increasingly harder to talk about the life and legacy of Uncle Tupelo without the conversation falling down one of the many rabbit holes of the band’s ever-expanding mythos.

By now, most everyone knows the more substantial high points of the band’s dynamic yet short-lived arc. Founding members Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, and Mike Heidorn started playing together in high school in a mid-’80s Belleville, Illinois, band called The Primitives that eventually became Uncle Tupelo after their lead singer (Farrar’s brother, Wade) quit the band and headed to college. The trio played heavily around Illinois and Missouri (especially at St. Louis staples Cicero’s and Mississippi Nights), eventually got an indie label record deal, released three celebrated albums, expanded to a five-piece, got picked up by a major label, released their fourth album, and subsequently imploded due to the mounting creative differences and personal tensions between co-frontmen Farrar and Tweedy. In the aftermath of Uncle Tupelo’s breakup, both artists went on to form the highly influential (and still going strong) bands Son Volt and Wilco, while their original work with Uncle Tupelo has garnered the legacy of being —depending on whom you ask — either just one of a number of genre pioneers that carried forward older music to younger generations or the standalone patient zero for the entire alt-country/Americana/modern roots music movement.

However, on this occasion, the 30th anniversary of Uncle Tupelo’s debut album, No Depression (released June 21st, 1990, on Rockville Records), there will be no attempts at encapsulating all of the “which came first, the genre or the band” equivocations. Instead, we decided to mark the milestone with some specificity, foregoing the conventional family tree retrospective in favour of a reflection on what is arguably one of the most shadow-casting records of the 20th century. To do so, we went directly to the source, speaking with Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy to get their insights and recollections on three decades of their career-starting (if not career-defining) debut release.

“Has it only been 30 years?” laughs Tweedy, a little stunned, a little tongue-in-cheek. “Like most important events, it somehow simultaneously feels like a lifetime ago and also … boy, that went fast!” Perhaps underscoring the “opposites attract” theme that is at the most foundational level of their complexly layered relationship, Farrar’s reaction to the anniversary is delivered with a bit more middle-of-the-road measuredness: “Honestly, some time has passed but it doesn’t really feel like it’s been that long. It’s just gratifying that anyone wants to talk about what we did 30 years ago.”

While that last comment might elicit a chuckle from anyone familiar with the everlasting supply of appreciative wistfulness and heated debates that has surrounded the individual and collective impacts of Farrar and Tweedy within the roots music community, there is a point to be made about the “subject to change” legacies of landmark albums and the fickle nature of pop cultural attention spans. There will always be a certain element of musical fandom that is asking “What’s next?”, while another, competing thread is turning the conversation from present-day movements back to the music that came before them. In the case of Uncle Tupelo, and especially their No Depression album, the attempt to address both can be found in their unconventional hybrid of self-penned song writing and encyclopedically referential musical influences that were blended together in ways that allowed the band to function as both creators and conduits.

“We didn’t come up with that whole ‘Woody Guthrie meets Hüsker Dü’ thing. That was probably some publicist along the way,” Farrar says. “Although, it wasn’t that far off. We were fans of Hüsker Dü and certainly there were musical similarities. Lyrically, from Woody Guthrie and essentially Bob Dylan too, we were inspired to think about societal issues and what was going on around us. So, we just put all those things into our songs.” Prime examples of this amalgam can be found on No Depression tracks like “Graveyard Shift,” “Factory Belt,” “Outdone,” and “Train,” where the band mixes the growling guitars and aggressive start-stop rhythms of their punk and indie rock influences with the country and folk-influenced lyrical themes of working-class desperation, economic struggle, anti-war sentiments, down-and-out isolation, and alcohol-soaked small-town blues.

“There were lots of bands — X, The Knitters, Jason and the Scorchers, Green on Red, so many more — already kind of fusing these two worlds that we were straddling,” says Tweedy. “I think our approach to it might have been a little bit more isolated and unrefined. Maybe it came out more punk rock or something, but I think anybody that credits us with inventing anything is wrong.” To further make the point, Tweedy points to the genre-blurring activities of some of his favourite ’60s bands: “We thought there was something boldly punk rock about The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Rolling Stones. To us,

Shortly after inking a record deal with Rockville Records in late 1989, Uncle Tupelo kicked off 1990 by traveling to Boston in the dead of winter to record their debut album at Fort Apache recording studio with famed alternative/college rock producers Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie. At the time, the celebrated production duo had already amassed an impressive recording resume that included Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Throwing Muses, Blake Babies, and more. (After recording No Depression, Slade and Kolderie would go on to produce Uncle Tupelo’s second record, Still Feel Gone, as well as multiplatinum albums for Radiohead, Hole, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and others).

“Of all the records that Paul and Sean had worked on to that point, I think the Dinosaur Jr. stuff would probably have been the biggest persuader for us,” admits Tweedy. “Being a production team that had worked on records that we actually owned, I think we were really surprised that they would want to work with us. I remember running through the first take of whatever we tried to do on the first day in the studio and Paul coming out and saying ‘Oh, good. You guys can play.’ I don’t think anybody had ever said that to us before.”

“As soon as we met Sean and Paul, there was such a good working camaraderie between us,” Farrar says. “They helped us get some really good guitar sounds and helped us flesh things out in terms of the finished recording being more than just doing what we normally did live. We were blown away when they brought in Rich Gilbert to play pedal steel on ‘Whiskey Bottle’ because that was an instrument that we hadn’t had the opportunity to record with before. He’s also playing that apocalyptic noise part at the end of ‘Factory Belt’ — just doing sweeps up and down the pedal steel with his slide.”

When it came time to package their newly recorded songs into a proper album, the band once again chose to wear its influences on its sleeve. Not only did they create a minimalist album cover aesthetic that mimicked releases from Moe Asch’s midcentury Folkways Records catalogue, but they also titled the album No Depression after the traditional Depression-era folksong “No Depression in Heaven” that is often attributed to the legendary Carter Family. (While they were the first to record it, there is some speculation that A.P. Carter “found” the song more than “wrote” it himself). Uncle Tupelo had also recorded a cover of the song for the album, surprising many by foregoing the buzzier, bombastic side of their sound for a more true-to-form acoustic folk number. The folksy, back porch singalong vibe can also be found on No Depression tracks “Life Worth Livin’” and “Screen Door,” with Farrar adding mandolin to the former and Tweedy swapping out his bass for an acoustic guitar on the latter.

When asked where they got the idea to cover “No Depression,” both Farrar and Tweedy tell the same origin story and make the same point of clarification. Remembers Farrar, “I was digging through my mom’s record collection and found this old folk compilation that had ‘No Depression’ on it. I thought the song really resonated with the themes of Midwest isolation that we often explored, plus it passed the test with Jeff and Mike since it sounded like something Woody Guthrie would’ve done. Though, I should add this was the New Lost City Ramblers version.”

Tweedy gives a similar account, adding, “We really owe a debt to the first folk revival wave from the late ’50s, early ’60s. Years later, I actually got to thank John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers for that when we crossed paths at Newport for this Harry Smith anthology reissue benefit show that Wilco played.”

Since the release of No Depression, both Farrar and Tweedy have each built impressive catalogues of releases between their respective bands and solo albums. Both are also still extremely active in the scene they helped to shape; just last year, Son Volt released Union, Wilco released Ode to Joy, and Tweedy released his second solo album, Warmer. However, there’s a good chance that neither artist will ever fully outstep the larger shadow of what they created together on No Depression. This seems true for both their live shows — “‘Graveyard Shift’ is one that’s been requested a lot over the years,” says Farrar; while Tweedy admits “‘Screen Door’ still gets requested quite frequently when I play solo shows, and although I’m not a big fan of the song, I’m also pretty sanguine about the notion of something surviving that long” — as well as for how the album seems to be a template by which all of their other works are somehow measured in various ways.

In fact, that “long time” Tweedy references might’ve been the majority, if not entirety, of Uncle Tupelo’s run; as the band’s highest accolades and genre pioneering respects only started popping up in the wake of their breakup in May 1994. As Uncle Tupelo drummer Mike Heidorn told the Los Angeles Times in early 1996 (at the time, he was playing drums in Farrar’s new band, Son Volt), “Uncle Tupelo is bigger now than ever… I guess death is a great career move.” These days, Farrar expresses some of the same sentiments on that post-mortem timeline: “It must’ve started to some degree around late ’94 or so when we had this vague understanding of an online chat group that had been built around mutual fans of the band.

Both Farrar and Tweedy acknowledge they haven’t sat with No Depression, the album, in quite some time, with the latter even stating, “It’s hard for me to really embrace the first record because I don’t think I had found my voice yet.” However, they both seem to take a mutual sense of pride in the hand-me-down musical ambassadorship inherent in their earliest work’s legacy. Reflects Tweedy, “In hindsight, it’s a thrilling thing to feel that you got to be a part of the actual tradition of sharing this particular knowledge with people that might not have come to it as quickly or maybe would have not even been introduced to it at all.”

In the case of Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression turning 30 years old, Tweedy seems to get the most impassioned when thinking back on not what they were making at the time, but what they were learning — both about themselves and also about the world around them.

“I just remember this overwhelming feeling that Jay and I would talk about getting from listening to folk music and country music, and speaking for myself personally, it was like having the veil pulled back and realizing that the world has always been weird. The world has always been scary. So, when people choose to express themselves with music, it can also be completely untamed. It’s not always shaped by fashion or commercial viability or anything like that; people just want to express themselves with words and noise and sound. That’s what I think we were discovering in Uncle Tupelo.

Tonight Wilco released a brand new song entitled “Tell Your Friends” after frontman Jeff Tweedy performed a lovely performance of “Jesus, Etc.” for Colbert. The new track definitely captures the spirit of present times and has a smooth chill vibe to it that could’ve fit on their most recent album, Ode To Joy“Tell Your Friends” is currently available to stream on their Bandcamp, with all proceeds being donated to World Central Kitchen.

Last Wednesday night, Wilco performed their uplifting new single “Tell Your Friends” for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and then also shared a studio version of the song, which encourages us all to connect with family while under quarantine. The purchases of the song, which is exclusively on Bandcamp, will go to World Central Kitchen, an organization who provides meals in the wake of natural disasters.

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The performance showed each band member in their respective homes. Alongside friends and family, Tweedy sings: “Don’t forget to tell your friends/When you see them again/O’ I love you/O’ I love you.”

This a song for everyone, Tweedy said in a press release. “We miss each other. So we wrote a song about it to sing with each other, to sing to each other.”

Tell Your Friends by Wilco ! Our friends in Wilco graciously chose The Late Show as the place for their debut performance of “Tell Your Friends,” which is available for download at http://www.wilcohq.bandcamp.com. All proceeds will be donated to World Central Kitchen

Image may contain: possible text that says 'THE TALLEST MAN EARTH ON SONGS BY KRISTIAN MATSSON PERFORMED ON GUITAR & BANJO'

The Tallest Man on Earth, aka Kristian Matsson, is a folk musician from Sweden. Like so many, his tour was cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19. Like numerous other musicians, he has taken to social media to perform instead. He has taken stabs at some other songs, including “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”,

His cover of “Jesus Etc.” is mostly simple. He has rearranged the music for solo acoustic guitar, playing with the tempo and feel of the song, while mostly keeping the vocal melody intact. However, he plays with the vocal, especially when he gets to the bridge. Though the performance seems live at first, he has actually added an additional instrument, what sounds like a keyboard, for the climax, and some visual flourishes, so it’s not just him sitting on an ottoman. His performance is both familiar and very distinct from the original song.

The Tallest Man on Earth covering Wilco. My life might now be complete,

“Jesus Etc.” is one of the more memorable tracks from Wilco’s (in)famous “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. YHF was the album which got them expelled from their label, only to be streamed free on the internet by the band and become a consensus pick for best album of 2001 (and, finally, land them at another label that was part of the same parent label that kicked them out in the first place!). The song has remained a staple of their live shows for years and is a fan favourite.

The original from Wilco’s (in)famous “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”.

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When Americana pioneers Uncle Tupelo released their major-label debut, “Anodyne” on October 5th, 1993, it should have been the beginning of something big. They were following up their left-turn acoustic record, March 16-20, 1992, recorded with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, with their best record yet

Recorded live in the studio amid mounting tension between singer / songwriters Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, “Anodyne” proved to be Uncle Tupelo’s last and finest album. These final sessions find Farrar and Tweedy crafting a seamless mesh of country, folk and rock that both encompasses and exceeds the range of previous albums.

Anodyne smoothed the jarring, start-stop rhythms of the band’s first two records, No Depression and Still Feel Gone, into a straight-ahead steamroll behind new drummer Ken Coomer. Farrar’s barbed guitar riffs sear on “Chickamauga,” where he compares a crumbling relationship to a Civil War bloodbath. Quieter moments such as the title track flex the strength of new multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston, who played dobro, banjo and fiddle, and former guitar tech John Stirratt, who held down bass when Tweedy switched to guitar.

With the straight-up country of Acuff-rose (a tribute to the famed songwriting duo), and the folky New Madrid, Tupelo displays the traditional leanings found on March 16-20, 1992, while both the bass-heavy The Long Cut and the barnstorming Chickamauga broaden the punk-tinged sound of No Depression and Still Feel Gone. While Anodyne also features a raucous collaboration with the late Doug Sahm on Give Back the Key to My Heart, its most transcendent moments are the world-weary Slate and the sublime title track, one of the most beautifully bittersweet songs penned since Neil Young’s Helpless. Although anodyne proved to be the end of the line for Uncle Tupelo, it opened up more expansive roads for Farrar and Tweedy,

Eventually, the friction between lifelong friends Farrar and Tweedy brought down the band at their biggest moment. Tweedy rushed the remaining members of Uncle Tupelo into the studio to record Wilco’s 1995 debut A.M., while Farrar took the long cut and found success with the hit single “Drown” on Son Volt’s Trace a year later.

Farrar has continued to wrestle with obscure, early country and folk music and his textured guitar wranglings over eight solid albums. Wilco has evolved from a Tupelo-twin to an engine of reinvention, from the deconstructionist country-rock of 1996’s Being There to the shimmering heartbreak of 1999’s Summerteeth and 2001’s experimental Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing

There’s nothing cheerful about Wilco’s weary new release, “Ode to Joy”, but Jeff Tweedy’s sullen, even sardonic, songs on the band’s 11th studio album are no less appreciable for their dark matter. The decaying guitar tones, sorrowful flourishes, and incessant stomp of “Bright Leaves” sets the tone from the outset, as Tweedy sings, “I never change/You never change.” Some songs here are personal (“Hold Me Anyway”), others political (“Citizens”), but Wilco accompanies them all the same with their incredible chemistry and a restrained instrumentation that keeps Tweedy’s questions front and center. “I blow my horn for the whole band,” he sings.

“Ode to Joy” is Wilco’s eleventh studio album, and it seems informed by maturity, which is less a newfound dimension than a deepening of the band’s growth over the past decade. Jeff Tweedy’s relative calm in the face of turmoil is the defining force underlying the record, and it’s clear from the outset: his vocals on opener “Bright Leaves” sound like they were recorded as the rest of the room was napping. The song appears to address his marriage; that topic would have been mined for something caustic and even sinister on, say, Summerteeth, but here it is marveled at for its consistency and durability, warts and all. This isn’t head-in-the-sand naiveté, but rather a calculated effort to shun the grim perspectives Wilco may once have embraced.

Everyone’s perennial alt-rock favorites Wilco just want to feel joyful. Is that so much to ask? In 2019’s dire, dreary political climate, maybe it is. Maybe we should risk our individual happinesses to better our community; maybe there’s a way to materialize that joy into political action. That’s the central tension in the band’s song, “Love Is Everywhere (Beware),” It’s the lead single from their newly announced 11th album, “Ode to Joy”.

Ode to Joy – Wilco’s 11th studio album – released October. 4th , 2019 via dBpm Records. The album features 11 new songs written and produced by Jeff Tweedy and recorded by Wilco at The Loft (Chicago, IL) in January 2019. “Love is Everywhere (Beware)” is the first single from the album release.

Whitney are releasing a new 7″ single to celebrate their upcoming sold-out, four-night hometown run at Chicago’s Thalia Hall. One side is “F.T.A.,” an alternate version of the title track from this year’s terrific “Forever Turned Around”, with a cover of Wilco’s “Far, Far Away” on the flip.

Whitney was born from a series of laidback early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the harshest winters in Chicago history, after Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek (former members of Smith Westerns) reconnected – first as roommates splitting rent in a small Chicago apartment and later as musical collaborators passing the guitar and the lyrics sheet back and forth. 

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released November 22nd, 2019

Wilco

Ode To Joy. Featuring 11 new songs written and produced by Tweedy and recorded by Wilco at The Loft (Chicago, IL) in January 2019, Tweedy and Glenn Kotche were the launching pad from which most of the songs on Ode To Joy materialized – Kotche’s percussion propels the music forward while Tweedy’s measured words flesh out the cleared paths. As a result, the album is comprised of “really big, big folk songs, these monolithic, brutal structures that these delicate feelings are hung on,” notes Tweedy. Across the entire album, drums pound and plod with a steady one – two pulse, meant to mimic the movement of marching – a powerful act utilized on both sides of the authoritarian wall. There’s also a sense of comfort that comes with the rhythmic marching sound.

The album largely does away with conventional rock and folk song structures; instead, it embraces spare, impressionistic arrangements—often led by booming, elemental percussion—to create one of the moodiest and most haunting records in Wilco’s catalog, more movingly understated than the experimental Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and darker than the uptempo Americana of Sky Blue Sky“For this record, we tried to intuit rock music pretending we hadn’t heard any…we’d tell each other what we wanted to hear,” Tweedy says. And while he is quick to acknowledge that the band didn’t exactly “reinvent rock music,” it does sound, to a certain degree, like they reinvented Wilco. As Ode to Joy makes clear, from the tense and restrained opening track “Bright Leaves”—which hangs glimmering sonic textures on thumping drums like ornaments on a Christmas tree—all the way through “An Empty Corner,” the mysterious heart-wrenching waltz that closes the album, Wilco have built nothing less than a world unto itself;

“Ode to Joy” Wilco’s 11th studio album – will be released October. 4th, 2019 via dBpm Records. The album features 11 new songs written and produced by Jeff Tweedy and recorded by Wilco at The Loft (Chicago, IL) in January 2019. “Everyone Hides” is the second single from the forthcoming release.

Wilco - Ode To Joy

For a band that’s typically so meticulous and exacting in their sound and process, Wilco’s 2016 album Schmilco seemed like a rushed and pieced-together work that followed its predecessor, Star Wars, a little more than a year later. The strain was evident.

The group went on a break, while leader Jeff Tweedy released three solo albums in succession, with the last, Warmer, arriving less than six months before Wilco return for their 11th LP, Ode to Joy.

A lot has happened in the relatively short three years between Wilco albums and, obviously, not all of them on the personal front. It’s been a rough period for a lot of people; anger, disillusionment and hopelessness seem to be at the core of a lot of lives these days. So, it’s no small thing that the record is called Ode to Joy. The somewhat winking title notwithstanding, there’s light in the darkness of these songs. You just have to dig a little to find it.

That’s a lot to ask, even from Wilco’s most devoted fans. Especially when the opening “Bright Leaves” barely works up a melody to lift spirits. But then the next two songs – “Before Us” and “One and a Half Stars” – proceed at a similar pace, and Ode to Joy begins to find strange comfort in its melancholy. “Now, when something’s dead, we try to kill it again,” Tweedy sings on “Before Us,” striking a sense of nostalgia for a lost past that eventually settles for resigned coziness.
The album is like that, creeping up on you with unexpected pokes you’re not really expecting to find in the sad-sack nature of many of the songs. By the time “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” rolls along during the last third of the LP, Ode to Joy sounds like the most organic Wilco album since 2004’s A Ghost Is Born.

At times, the moody atmospherics underlining the songs amount to no more than mere hums; other times they become another instrument, pushing the tracks along. These sonic textures add haunting rumbles, fleeting noise bursts and the occasional melodic upswing.

But turmoil is always around the corner. The album’s opening lines – “I don’t like the way you’re treating me” – signal a theme that shows up throughout the album, even at its most uplifting moments. But there’s reserved hope, a tentative grasping for purpose in humanity, even when the chorus of a song called “Citizens” goes “White lies, white lies” and another one slyly titled “We Were Lucky” plays at a funeral-march pace.

Ode to Joy, like the best Wilco albums, can be oblique. That’s always been a draw, and it’s no less so here. The time away from each other has sharpened some of their ties. Tweedy is still in charge, but Nels Cline’s guitar cuts through the occasional clutter to expose the soul that’s not always surface evident. And the band’s focused interplay on standouts like “Everyone Hides” takes on a life-force of its own, even if the overall result seems a little slight compared to past masterworks like Being There and Summerteeth.

As with the band’s accidental post-9/11 meditation and career high-point Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – which was supposed to be released earlier in 2001 but didn’t come out until 2002 – Ode to Joy sounds like a reflection of the times. Art can’t help but to react, but maybe reading too much into the album shifts its intent and position.

Then again, maybe not. When Tweedy declares, “I’m freaking the fuck out / I’ll try to do my best, I guess” on “Hold Me Anyway,” it comes off like a summation of both the record and 2019. This isn’t a record to change the world or even Wilco’s place in it, like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot did. But in trying to make sense of it, Ode to Joy finds a sort of strength. And we’ll take what we can get these days.

Wilco, photo by <a href="https://www.annabelmehran.com/">Annabel Mehran</a>

Wilco have announced their 11th studio album. It’s called “Ode to Joy” and it arrives October 4th via their own dBpm Records. In addition to the album announcement, Jeff Tweedy and co. have shared a new song.

Listen to lead single “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” below,

Jeff Tweedy said of a new song in a statement:
There MUST be more love than hate. Right?! I’m not always positive we can be so sure. In any case, I’m starting to feel like being confident in that equation isn’t always the best motivation for me to be my best self—it can kind of let me off the hook a little bit when I think I should be striving to contribute more love outside of my comfortable sphere of family and friends.

So… I guess the song is sort of a warning to myself that YES, Love Is Everywhere, but also Beware! I can’t let that feeling absolve me of my duty to create more.

Wilco are heading out on tour this year. Ode to Joy marks the first Wilco album since 2016’s Schmilco. Tweedy’s first album of original solo songs, Warm, was released at the tail end of 2018. A follow-up companion album, Warmer, was also released earlier this year for Record Store Day.