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Wilco

Wilco

Alternative country group

Wilco was initially an offshoot of Uncle Tupelo, a progressive country band that broke apart in 1994; one of the group's cofounders, Jeff Tweedy, formed a new band that held on to its country roots while adopting a more pop/rock sound. As the band progressed, however, it became clear "country" was far too limited a term to encapsulate Tweedy's musical vision. In 2002, the band's experimental album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, although dropped by its previous record label, was a swirling, chanting, experimental work that landed atop the Village Voice 's annual Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll.

Wilco's roots were in a combination of country and punk music, and a band called Uncle Tupelo. In 1988, two longtime friends with a passion for traditional country and punk music, who were both natives of Belleville, Illinois, a decaying blue-collar suburb east of St. Louis, Missouri, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy formed Uncle Tupelo. Prior to Uncle Tupelo, the two had formed a punk band, the Primitives, which broke up when Farrar's brother enlisted in the United States Army. Both men shared responsibility for writing music and lyrics, creating a persuasive blend of country punk, an intense style of punk-informed rural music, and were joined by drummer Mike Heidorn (later replaced by Ken Coomer).

The group toured on the Midwestern club circuit for a couple of years before releasing their debut album, No Depression in 1990, followed by Still Feel Gone in 1991, both for the independent Rockville label. These releases brought the group an instant cult following of both country and rock fans, as well as critical accolades from music magazines such as Rolling Stone. Tweedy, who played bass for the group, and Farrar, who served as lead guitarist and vocalist, each provided the group with a distinct sensibility. While Tweedy held the sweeter instincts and a critical interest in music, Farrar added soul to Uncle Tupelo's songs with his grand, indignant voice and pained tone. The group returned in 1992 with a more subdued, acoustic album of traditional folk tunes entitled March 16-20, 1992, produced by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, which also earned favorable critical attention. After signing with a major label, Warner Brothers' Sire/Reprise, Uncle Tupelo released Anodyne in 1993, considered the group's best album. Here, the group placed country in the background and opted for a more progressive sound.

Despite the band's newfound commercial appeal, major label contract, and growing popularity, Farrar abruptly left Uncle Tupelo in 1994 and formed a new American folk/country group called Son Volt. Neither of the men would elaborate on the exact circumstances of the split, but Tweedy did suggest that "I think it was a personal decision for Jay, but he wasn't very communicative about anything to us, which was fairly normal for Jay," as quoted by Alan Sculley in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I mean, a lot of things that were used as explanations were fairly contradictory so I wouldn't really be able to comment on it." Even though Tweedy and Farrar had worked together for years, Tweedy further commented that their relationship centered around music, rather than a personal friendship.

From the moment Farrar announced his departure, the remaining members knew that they loved making music together and did not want to stop. Thus, Tweedy took the leading role as guitarist and vocalist and renamed the group Wilco. The former members of Uncle Tupelo, which also included drummer Coomer, fiddler and mandolin and banjo player Max Johnston, and bassist John Stirratt, were later joined by a second guitarist, Jay Bennett (formerly of the group Titanic Love Affair). After closing the door on Uncle Tupelo, the newly-formed Wilco felt truly liberated. "Certain things, I think, would kind of be tossed out before they ever became a song, just on the idea that it wouldn't really fit in on an Uncle Tupelo record or really didn't work next to Jays songsthings like that," Tweedy told Sculley.

Originally, Wilco earned a reputation as a no frills rock band, and Tweedy became known as a simple, personal, and uncomplicated storyteller. But the band hinted at its future musical exploration even early in its career. With a new sense of creative freedom, Wilco seemed determined to include all styles of music into their new band. In 1995, they joined the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) tour, playing some old Uncle Tupelo songs, as well as some new songs that later appeared on their debut release.

After relocating to Chicago from St. Louis, Wilco released their first album, A.M., in 1995 on the Sire/Reprise label. For the debut, the group, joined by guest guitarist Brian Henneman of the group the Bottle Rockets, maintained its country roots, but also added more pop and rock influences. Consisting of 13 tracks, 12 of which were written by Tweedy, A.M. opens with four solid rock songs, including "Box Full of Letters," which deals with separation (perhaps in regards to Farrar's leaving), and "Casino Queen," a rock song full of unbridled energy. Throughout the rest of the album, the music deepens in scope, moving back and forth between heavier rock songs and mid-tempo ballads, such as the love songs "Pick Up the Change," "That's Not the Issue," "Should've Been in Love," and "Too Far Apart." Bassist and rhythm guitarist Stirratt wrote and sang one song for the album entitled "It's Just That Simple," a tearful, traditional country tune. Later that year, multi-instrumentalist Johnson left Wilco, and fiddler and guitarist Bob Egan joined the band.

The following year, Wilco released their second album, a 19-track double CD entitled Being There. Publications such as Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times raved about the group's latest collection, using catch phrases like "album of the year" and "ambitious versatility," and their music received airplay on alternative rock radio stations across the United States. Like their debut, Being There included music from several genres, from neo-punk to rockabilly on top of their firm progressive country foundation. For example, the song "Monday" recalled the swinging rock of the Rolling Stones' hit "Brown Sugar," "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)" took inspiration from West Coast 1960s pop, and "Kingpin" boasted the sounds of swaggering country.

For the Record . . .

Members include Leroy Bach (group member, 1999-2004), keyboards; Jay Bennett (group member, 1995-2002), guitar; Ken Coomer (left band, 2000), drums; Bob Egan (group member, 1996-99), guitar, fiddle; Max Johnston (left band, 1996), guitar, vocals, fiddle, mandolin, banjo; Mikal Jorgensen (joined group, 2003), keyboards; Glenn Kotche (joined group, 2000), drums; John Stirratt , bass; Jeff Tweedy (born on August 25, 1967, in Belleville, IL; married; children: one son, born c. 1996) guitar, vocals.

Group formed in St. Louis, MO, started touring through out the Midwest, 1994; toured with H.O.R.D.E., released debut album A.M., 1995; released Being There, 1996; released Mermaid Avenue with Billy Bragg; released Summer Teeth, toured worldwide with R.E.M., 1999; released Mermaid Avenue Vol. II with Billy Bragg, 2000; released Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002; released A Ghost is Born, 2004.

Addresses: Record company Nonesuch Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104, website: http://www.repriserec.com. Website Wilco Official Website: http://www.wilcoworld.net.

The band went back into the studio in 1997 to begin work on their third album. In the meantime, they took time off to work on a project with British folk singer and musician Billy Bragg in Dublin. In 1998, Bragg and Wilco released the critically acclaimed Mermaid Avenue, a collection of Woodie Guthrie lyrics for which the musicians wrote their own original music. The concept for the album came about in 1995 when Guthrie's daughter, Nora Guthrie, gave Bragg reams of her father's handwritten song lyrics and asked him to write music for them. Although Guthrie had composed some of the music for the lyrics, he did not have the chance to write the notes down before he died in 1967 following a long battle with a rare nervous disorder called Huntington's chorea. The resulting album, with music co-written by Wilco and Bragg, combined the folk blueprint of Bragg with the soul and genre-bending tendencies of Wilco. (Wilco and Bragg would revisit this formula on Mermaid Avenue Vol. II, in 2000, including even-more-obscure Guthrie originals such as "Stetson Kennedy" and "Black Wind Blowing.")

Subsequently, Wilco returned to Chicago to complete recording songs for Summer Teeth, released in 1999. A strong 1960s pop element came though in tracks like "I'm Always in Love," "ELT," and "Summer Teeth." However, Tweedy contrasted Wilco's bright pop songs with dark, often disturbing lyrics, although the overall feel of the album was upbeat. "There's a darkness to the lyrical half of the the record and there's an overwhelming brightness to the music," Tweedy informed Curtis Ross in the Tampa Tribune. "The effort was to make the record more hopeful as it progressed." Like the group's prior work, Summer Teeth received critical praise and further solidified Tweedy's reputation as one of America's most stellar songwriters. Also that year, Wilco toured Europe and the United States, opening for the group R.E.M. in larger arenas and headlining their own show at smaller venues.

Wilco seemed to be on a path to success. "I've always wanted a band where everybody felt invested and welcomed contributions, have it be fulfilling and as much of a democracy as it can be," Tweedy told the Denver Post. "With this current band, I've gotten closer to it than it's ever been. It's satisfying. But I admit itI've learned to this point by f***ing it up!"

But Tweedy's enthusiasm didn't carry over to everybody else in the band. Although Wilco was in the studio recording what many consider its masterpiece, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, multi-instrumentalist and key sound architect Bennett was starting to distance himself from the rest of the band. Then, a music-industry soap opera commenced after the band finished the album and submitted it to its longtime label, Reprise Records, which once had a reputation for releasing adventurous music. Reprise executives rejected the album as not commercial enough; the band pleaded its case in the media and wound up selling it to Nonesuch (which, oddly, was owned by Warner Bros., which also owns Reprise). The album's soaring, repetitive tracks sound absolutely nothing like the straightforward country-rock of A.M. or Uncle Tupelo, and songs such as "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and "Heavy Metal Drummer" resembled nothing else in rock 'n' roll at the time. Critics loved it.

Although Bennett appears on Foxtrot, he quit the band shortly thereafter and went on to work on several solo projects, including three albums scheduled for release in 2004. His departure of the band is achingly chronicled on I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, a bittersweet, Sam Jones-directed documentary film about the Foxtrot sessions. ("Jay wore out his welcome in a lot of ways," Tony Margherita, the band's manager, says in the film.) More departures followed Bennett; veteran Wilco keyboardist Leroy Bach (who himself had replaced Bennett) and steel guitarist Bob Egan announced their departure from the group in early 2004. In early 2004, Wilco was in the studio recording a follow-up to Foxtrot, A Ghost is Born, to be released in the summer of 2004.

Despite Wilco's success after breaking away from Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy insisted that he still remains an ordinary guy. "I'm not some big rock star, but I do run into fans every now and then who think I'm this super-special person ... and it's weird, because you can't be who they think you are." Nevertheless, he admitted to acting "freaked out" when he met one of his musical heroes in 1996, when Wilco shared a bill with Johnny Cash at a show in New York City. "I don't know if someone coached him on my name or something, but he actually walked into the room and said, 'Where's Jeff?' and my heart stopped," Tweedy recalled to Thor Christensen of the Dallas Morning News. "After you've made a few records, you think you could meet [famous] people and not act goofy. But when I'm around a guy like Johnny Cash, there's no way I can act or talk normally."

Selected discography

A.M., Sire/Reprise, 1995.

Being There, Reprise, 1996.

(With Billy Bragg) Mermaid Avenue, Elektra, 1998.

Summer Teeth, Reprise, 1999.

(With Billy Bragg) Mermaid Avenue Vol. II, Reprise, 2000.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Nonesuch, 2002.

A Ghost is Born, Nonesuch, 2004.

Sources

Books

Kingsbury, Paul, editor, Encyclopedia of Country Music, Oxford University Press, 1998.

MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink, 1999.

Robbins, Ira A., editor, Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Periodicals

Capital Times (Madison, WI), February 5, 1997, p. 1D.

Dallas Morning News, November 3, 1996, p. 1C; November 8, 1996, p. 33A; June 21, 1998, p. 1C.

Denver Post, September 8, 2002.

Independent, April 2, 1999, p. 11.

Independent on Sunday, March 30, 1997.

New Statesman, March 26, 1999.

Newsday, June 13, 1995, p. B02; February 17, 1997, p. B07.

The Record (Bergen County, NJ), June 14, 1995, p. F09.

Rolling Stone, June 24, 1999.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 23, 1995, p. 04G; April 21, 1995, p. 06E; November 2, 1995, p. 11; January 1, 1997, p. 14; August 19, 1999, p. 26; October 11, 2002.

Spin, May 1999, p. 55.

Tampa Tribune, August 27, 1999, p. 18.

Toronto Sun, April 14, 1999, p. 63.

Wisconsin State Journal, April 8, 1999, p. 16.

Online

"Wilco," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 9, 2004).

Wilco Official Website, http://www.wilcoworld.net (February 9, 2004).

Laura Hightower and Steve Knopper

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Farrar, Jay

Jay Farrar



Singer, songwriter, guitarist



Jay Farrar is perhaps best known for being a member of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, two critically acclaimed roots bands credited with pioneering the alt-country or "No Depression" sound. After Son Volt dissolved, Farrar embarked on a solo career. Julie Borovik, writing for the Nadamucho website in 2003, called Farrar "one of the greatest singer/songwriters of our generation." She contended that Uncle Tupelo "altered music history forever by creating a perfect synergy between rock/blues/country/punk and intertwining it with lyrical wisdom and intelligence far beyond their years."

Farrar started playing the guitar in bands formed by his older brothers when he was 11 or 12. Eventually, he and high school friends Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn formed a rock group called the Primitives, in 1984. This band evolved into Uncle Tupelo. Uncle Tupelo toiled on the club scene, finally signing with an independent record label for their debut project, No Depression. "With the fury of punk-influenced guitars mixed with a country feedback twang, Tupelo's songs became popular fixtures on college radio," wrote aRolling Stone contributor.

No Depression birthed a movement and gave it a name. Uncle Tupelo seemed to have come along at just the right time; music writers were impressed with the band's sound and identified No Depression as the inspiration for a host of similar releases. The main elements of their music had existed for decades, simply called by a variety of different names. But in Uncle Tupelo mainstream listeners seemed to find the essence of the rootsy, genre-bending music which has come to be known as variously as the alternative country (or alt-country)or simply "No Depression." Uncle Tupelo's album also lent its name to a magazine covering this type of music.

The group released four recordings. After a tour undertaken to support Anodyne, according to Rolling Stone, "festering tensions between Farrar and Tweedy had reached critical mass and in June of 1994, Farrar left the band and Uncle Tupelo disbanded." "[W]e basically had reached a point where I did not want to continue doing it anymore and I don't think Jeff was at the same stage I was at, at that point," Farrar told Nadamucho in a 2003 interview. "I think we are all better for it, having ended it when we did."


Forged Ahead with Son Volt

With the demise of Uncle Tupelo, Farrar regrouped. Tweedy went on to found Wilco. Heidorn joined Farrar, and Jim and Dave Boquist signed on to the new band known as Son Volt. The group released Trace in 1995 to rave reviews. The album appeard on many critics' year-end "best of" charts, including the Rolling Stone Top 10 list. The magazine noted that the group "continued Tupelo's spirit of moody and rousing ruralism."

Farrar was married in 1996 to his high school sweetheart. For the most part he has kept his family and his personal life out of the entertainment headlines. "Married and the father of two preschoolage daughters, Farrar has always preferred an insular life and intimate music," wrote Greg Kot in the Chicago Tribune.

Two other acclaimed albums were released by Son Volt. These were 1997's Straightaways and Wide Swing Tremolo, released in 1998. During its last year and a half, the band stuck to a routine live set drawn from its three releases. They typically played only two Uncle Tupelo songs"Postcards" and "Chickamauga." In a review of one of their last performances, in 1999 at St. Louis's Mississippi Nights club, No Depression reviewer Roy Kasten opined that "the music couldn't catch fire." He observed that the band's manager had flown in. "The band doesn't want everyone to think of these as their last shows," she told Kasten. Ironically, this was to be the venue where Uncle Tupelo played its last live show. Not content to rest on his laurels after the success of Son Volt, Farrar sought out new creative challenges.


Emerged as Independent Artist

Beginning in 2000, Farrar started giving acoustic performances. He released Sebastopol, his debut solo project, in the fall of 2001. Farrar had help from Steven Drozd, keyboardist of the Flaming Lips, Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, and Tom Ray, bassist for the Bottle Rockets. Son Volt went on indefinite hiatus. When pressed in interviews, Farrar has said that Son Volt is in some combination of being on hiatus and having broken up. He has declined to give a straight answer as to whether the group will play together again.

"I always knew that I would try something solo," Farrar told Denver Westword in a January of 2001 interview. "After three Son Volt records, it just felt like the right time to do it. When the band was done touring, when it was over, it seemed like the time for me to try something on my own. I pretty much wanted to try some different textures and use some of the odd instruments I'd collected over the years that didn't really fit into what Son Volt was doing. To a certain extent, in Son Volt, I was writing knowing that those three guys would be playing the songs," Farrar said. "Here I was able to sort of write outside of that, write what I wanted to and then fit the musicians to the music."

In 2002 Farrar released ThirdShiftGrottoSlack, a five-track EP, as a follow-up to Sebastopol. Farrar says he did this at the urging of his record label's A&R representative. He told Rolling Stone that the wealth of material he brought to Sebastopol "was more songs than I had written before or attempted to record. It was something of a new concept for me." So some of the songs were diverted to ThirdShiftGrottoSlack. Farrar also said in this interview that there were no immediate plans to revive Son Volt.

Kot noted that throughout his career, "Jay Farrar remains as reliable as the sunrise. His approach is less about innovation than it is immersion; why go searching for new sounds when the one you've already got is so full of possibilities? With each album, he aims to go deeper, not wider. His sparse music resonates with reverberating strings, desolate open-tuned guitars and plaintive understatement that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an old Folkways record or an Alan Lomax field recording."


Formed Own Label

Terroir Blues was the second full-length solo album from Farrar and the first on his own Act/Resist label. The label's name combines "two words that I thought I could live with," said Farrar on his website. "It's got the feel of socialist revolt, too. Artists get dropped and labels go out of business every day. I want to make sure that there is an outlet for my music."

Consisting of 23 tracks, the largely acoustic Terroir Blues was recorded in 2002 and 2003. The songs were written in the summer of 2002. Farrar had help from Wurster again, as well as from Eric Heywood, who had played pedal steel guitar for Son Volt; Brian Henneman of the Bottle Rockets, and guitarist Mark Spencer of the Blood Oranges. "Some of the haunted nature of Terroir Blues' songs is rooted in Farrar's recollections and reflections on the life of his father," according to the Act/Resist website. "Farrar's ruminations on his father's death last summer provided some of the impetus for the songs on Terroir Blues."

For the Record . . .


Born in 1966 in Belleville, IL; married, 1996; children: two.


Formed the Primitives with high school friends Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn, 1984; band evolved into Uncle Tupelo; recorded four albums before breaking up in 1994; Farrar, Heidorn, and Jim and Dave Boquist formed Son Volt; released Trace, 1995; released Straightaways, 1997; released Wide Swing Tremolo, 1998; Son Volt played final concerts, 1999; Farrar gave solo acoustic performances, 2000; released solo debut recording Sebastopol, 2001; released EP ThirdShiftGrottoSlack, 2002; released Terroir Blues, 2003;
Uncle Tupelo catalog and a 21-track anthology reissued, 2003.


Addresses: Record company Act/Resist Records, website: http://www.actresistrecords.com. Publicist Grassroots Media, 800 18th Ave. S., Ste. B, Nashville, TN 37203, website: http://www.grassrootsmedia.com. Booking Frank Riley, High Road Touring, website: http://www.highroadtouring.com. Website Jay Farrar Official Website: http://www.jayfarrar.net.




Rolling Stone reviewed the album, saying that it "should find a middle ground between the rootsy sound Farrar defined with Son Volt and the more experimental sounds of his 2001 solo debut, Sebastopol." And there was continuing interest in the music of the bands Farrar had performed with earlier in his career. The Uncle Tupelo catalog was reissued in 2003 along with a new 21-track anthology, which surprised fans who had thought it would never happen given the gulf of silence between Farrar and Tweedy. Farrar told Denver West-word that it was "kind of weird to go back over the old music. I was surprised at sort of the spirit of the music."



Selected discography


Solo


Sebastopol, Fellow Guard/Artemis, 2001.

ThirdShiftGrottoSlack (EP), Artemis, 2002.

Terroir Blues, Act/Resist/Artemis, 2003.

With Uncle Tupelo


No Depression, Rockville, 1990; reissued, Columbia/Legacy, 2003.

Still Feel Gone, Rockville, 1991; reissued, Columbia/Legacy, 2003.

March 16-20, 1992, Rockville, 1992; reissued, Columbia/Legacy, 2003.

Anodyne, Sire/Reprise, 1993; reissued, Rhino, 2003.

Uncle Tupelo 89/93: An Anthology, Columbia/Legacy, 2003.


With Son Volt


Trace, Warner Bros., 1995.

Straightaways, Warner Bros., 1997.

Wide Swing Tremolo, Warner Bros., 1998.



Sources

Periodicals


Chicago Tribune, September 12, 2003.

No Depression, January-February 2000; November-December 2001.

Online


"Farrar Sings the Blues," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/printer_friendly.asp?nid=17770&cf=1404649 (October 31, 2003).

"Jay Farrar," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/default.asp?oid=1404649 (October 31, 2003).

"Leaving the Son," Denver Westword, http://www.westword.com/issues/2002-1-24/music.html/1/index.html (December 7, 2003).

"Nadamucho.com: Jay Farrar Interview," Nadamucho, http://www.nadamucho.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=80 (October 31, 2003).

"New Farrar Songs Surface on EP," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/printer_friendly.asp?nid=15922&cf=1404649 (October 31, 2003).

"Son Volt," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/default.asp?oid=388 (October 31, 2003).

"Son Volt's Rural Rock," Insurgent Country, http://www.insurgentcountry.com/son_volts_rural_rock (December 7, 2003).


Linda Dailey Paulson

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Volt, Son

Son Volt

Alternative country, rock band

For the Record

A Bright Beginning

Studio Work Produces Solid Recordings

Time Well Spent

Selected discography

Sources

Born from the ashes of the critically-loved Uncle Tupelo, Son Volts emergence in 1995 was one of the most closely watched of the year, as rock critics and alt-country fans alike tried to determine if Jay Farrar, one of that bands two leaders, could continue to craft winning, weary songs without songwriting partner Jeff Tweedy. The answer, apparently, was yes. While Tweedy went on to form the more lighthearted Wilco, the solemn-voiced Farrar carried the darker torch in the form of Son Volt and laid to rest any concerns about whether or not he could pen songs on his own, winning over critics and fans alike while managing to stay true to his rural roots.

The seeds from which Son Volt would eventually spring were sown in Farrars childhood. The youngest of four boys (the others being John, Wade and Dade), Farrar grew up primarily in Belleville, Illinois, a town almost a half an hour away from St. Louis. Although his father worked on a dredge boat, Farrar did not see his family as traditionally working-class. His father collected old cars and instruments, so like his siblings, Farrar

For the Record

Members include Dave Boquist, guitars, fiddle, banjo, lap steel; Jim Boquist, backing vocals, bass; Jay Farrar (born December 26, 1966, in Belleville, IL), vocals, guitar; Mike Heidorn, drums.

Formed after Farrars old band, Uncle Tupelo, split in 1994; while still under contract to Warner Bros., recorded Son Volts first album, Trace, for the label, 1995; Trace named one of Rolling Stone critics Top Ten albums of the year, 1995; contributed live version of Traces Drown to VH1 Crossroads compilation on Atlantic, 1996; released second album, Straightaways, on Warner Bros., 1997.

Addresses: Record company Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4694. Website http://www.wbr.com/sonvolt; sonvoltl@aol.com.

developed an early fascination with music, learning to play guitar at age eleven. His mother, who owned a used bookstore where Farrar worked by day, taught him how to play. It was a good environment to grow up in, he was quoted in a 1997 interview in Option. Both of my parents had an appreciation for music, and a willingness to pass on what they knew.

Finding small-town farm life stifling, he saw music as a way to escape. Along with older brother Wade, and high school friends Tweedy and Mike Heidorn, Farrar got his start as a high schooler in the Primitives, a primarily 1960s cover band. Although initially compelled by the punk rock bands they saw perform at shows in St. Louis, the teens soon found fresher inspiration in plaintive classics by country artists like Hank Williams and George Jones.

Wade Farrars departure from the band around 1987 to join the Army was an event that precipitated the birth of Uncle Tupelo, a band that would blend the twin influences of country and punk. The band became cult favorites and released three country-flavored rock albums on the independent label Rockville (to which they were signed in 1989) before they were signed to Warner Brothers Sire division in 1993. For financial reasons, Heidorn left the band before it recorded for Sire.

Ironically, by the time Uncle Tupelos major label debut, Anodyne, was released by Sire in 1993, the band was on the verge of dissolution. Uncle Tupelo officially called it quits the following year, citing the usual creative differences. As producer Brian Paulson, who worked on that album as well as the debuts of Tupelo splinter groups Wilco and Son Volt, told Steve Apple-ford of the Los Angeles Times in 1996, The tension on Anodyne is kind of apparent, as far as Im concerned. Stylistically, it starts to diverge quite a bit.

In the wake of the break-up, Farrar relocated for a period to New Orleans, reportedly the site of his familys only vacation. There, he focused on penning songs that would become the basis of Son Volts debut album.

A Bright Beginning

Naming itself in honor of the legendary bluesman Son House, Son Volt formed in 1995 and reunited Farrar and Heidorn, who was then doing production work for a local newspaper. The formation of the band, with Farrar at the head, forced the notoriously shy and reticent songwriter more into the spotlight than he had been as a member of Uncle Tupelo. He would rather speak through his music.

With their own backgrounds in rootsy rock and country, the Boquist brothers, who grew up in the tiny Minnesota farming town of Rosemount before moving to Minneapolis, were logical choices to round out the group. Since the 1980s, the brothers had singly or jointly performed with bands like the Jayhawks, the Replacements, and Soul Asylum. Jim Boquist, who met Farrar in the early 1990s while playing bass for Joe Henry during an Uncle Tupelo tour, had remained in touch with Farrar over the years. Thus, when Farrar needed to assemble additional musicians to record post-Uncle Tupelo songs, he turned to Jim, and then Dave Boquist as well.

Studio Work Produces Solid Recordings

Work on Son Volts first album started with the recording of demos in Illinois. The band then headed to Minnesota for recording sessions for Trace for Warner Bros., the label with which Farrar still had a record contract. The long drives from his home in New Orleans to see the Boquists in Minneapolis and Heidorn in St. Louis inspired Farrar to write songs like Tear Stained Eye for Trace. As Karen Schoemer observed in a 1995 article in Newsweek, as the songwriter traveled up and down the country, tracing a vertical line along the Mississippi River, Farrars head filled up with images of aimlessness and wandering, highways and dead ends, neon signs and late-night radio stations. Like any good writer, he filtered them all into his work.

Following its much-anticipated release in 1995, Trace garnered a host of glowing accolades from the music press and landed in a number of critics year-end Top Ten picks. In a review that appeared in the Detroit News in 1995, Eric Fiedler of the Associated Press called Trace magnificent and mesmerizing. Similarly, Jeff Gordinier wrote in Entertainment Weekly that the band turned heartland rust into gold on its first album. Borrowing from country and lazy, early-70s Southern California country rock, Son Volt creates music that is at once open to the possibilities of the next vista and suffused with a weary travelers melancholy, music critic Tom Moon wrote in the Philadelphia Enquirer.

Time Well Spent

After spending two years together in the studio and on the road, the members of Son Volt noted that their second album, 1997s Straightaways, came more naturally to them. The album re-teamed the band with producer Brian Paulson, who also produced Trace. Brian Paulson deserves a lot of credit, Dave Boquist was quoted in Option. Like in photography, you try to get a good negative. I think thats what he tries to doget the most unadulterated, good sound, so that he doesnt have to fine-tune too much. Among the songs on Straightaways is the ballad Been Set Free, a song written in response to Uncle Tupelos Lilli Schull. Where Lilli Schull was written from the perspective of a contrite man imprisoned for the murder of his wife, Been Set Free, with initial lyrics written by Farrars wife, tells a similar tale from the womans perspective.

Although not quite as well-received as Trace, Straightaways also earned a host of favorable reviews. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Jim Fusilli wrote that the band delivers stark, weary ballads with teary-eyed sincerity thats undeniably charming, and uptempo rockers with a natural, unassuming power. Striving, as Rolling Stone critic Rob OConnor put it, for a more intimate back-porch vibe than Trace, Straightaways is Son Volt rocking at their most forlorn.

Selected discography

Trace, Warner Bros. Records, 1995.

Straightaways, Warner Bros. Records, 1997.

(With others) VH1 Crossroads, Atlantic, 1996.

Sources

Books

Buckley, Jonathan, and Mark Ellingham, eds., Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides, 1996.

DeCurtis, Anthony, James Henke and Holly George-Warren, eds., The Rolling Stone Album Guide, Random House, 1992.

Elrewine, Michael, executive ed., All Music Guide to Rock, second edition, Miller Freeman Books, 1997.

Larkin, Colin, The Guiness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Stockton Press, 1995.

Romanowski, Patricia, and Holly George-Warren, eds., The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Fireside, 1995.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1997; August 8, 1997.

Detroit Free Press, April 20, 1997.

Detroit News, November 25, 1995; September 25, 1997.

Entertainment Weekly, November 10, 1995; October 11, 1996; April 25, 1997.

Interview, October 1996.

Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1995; March 17, 1996; April 27, 1997.

Metro Times (Detroit), September 24, 1997.

Newsweek, October 2, 1995.

New York Times, October 30, 1995.

Option, May/June 1997.

People, May 12, 1997.

Philadelphia Enquirer, September 24, 1995.

Rolling Stone, April 17, 1997.

Time Out New York, April 24, 1997.

Tribe Inside, June 1997.

Wall Street Journal, July 18, 1997.

Additional information was provided by Warner Bros. Records publicity materials.

K. Michelle Moran

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Wilco

WILCO

Formed: 1994, Chicago, Illinois

Members: Leroy Bach, guitar, keyboards (born Chicago, Illinois, 21 August 1964); Glenn Kotche, drums (born Chicago, Illinois, 31 December 1970); John Stirratt, bass (born New Orleans, Louisiana, 26 November 1967); Jeff Tweedy, lead vocals, guitar (born Belleville, Illinois, 25 August 1967). Former members: Jay Bennett, guitar, piano, vocals (born 15 November 1963), Ken Coomer, drums (born 5 November 1960); Max Johnston, mandolin, dobro, banjo.

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Hit songs since 1990: "Heavy Metal Drummer," "California Stars"


Following the demise of beloved country-influenced rock band Uncle Tupelo in 1994, Jeff Tweedy and his band Wilco emerged as what critics called one of the most inventive, emotionally resonant American bands of the 1990s and 2000s.

Tweedy formed Wilco in 1994 with several ex-members of Uncle Tupelo, among them drummer Ken Coomer, bassist John Stirratt, and multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston. The group's debut, A.M., followed closely in the footsteps of the Uncle Tupelo style, which blended country music accents with rock, folk, and punk rock into a widely emulated modern country rock sound dubbed "no depression" after the name of Uncle Tupelo's 1990 debut album. However, with the addition of guitarist Jay Bennett in 1995, Wilco embarked on a new path that would lead them far from the nouveau country rock movement.

The two-album set Being There (1996), which won critical acclaim but was commercially unsuccessful, is the work of a band that was not simply stepping away from its previous sound. Like the Beatles in the late 1960s, who traded their simple pop ditties for complex, lushly arranged rock symphonies, Wilco completely reinvented its approach by abandoning, for the most part, its country sound and focusing on a broader palette of musical influences. Gone is the twangy sensibility of A.M. and in its place are baroque psychedelic dirges ("Sunken Treasure"), theatrical orchestral flourishes, and bubblegum-pop love songs such as "I Got You (At the End of the Century)" and the lovelorn "Red-Eyed and Blue."

Songs such as "Misunderstood," which features the lyrics, "There's a fortune inside your head / All you touch turns to lead / You think you might just crawl back in bed / The fortune inside your head," firmly established the hoarse-voiced Tweedy as a songwriter with a rich emotional range and an earthy, poetic style in the vein of one of the most important American folk artists of the early twentieth century, Woody Guthrie. Author of the quintessentially American anthem "This Land Is Your Land," Guthrie penned countless political and union songs such as "Dust Bowl Blues" and "Tom Joad" in the 1940s, setting the stage for the folk revival of the late 1950s/early 1960s which birthed such modern legends as folksinger Bob Dylan.


In 1998 Wilco was invited by English singer/songwriter Billy Bragg to collaborate on a project that added music to previously unreleased Woody Guthrie lyrics. The resulting album, Mermaid Avenue, which was fraught with behind-the-scenes creative tension between Bragg and Tweedy, was nevertheless a commercial and artistic triumph. In reimagining Guthrie's songs as everything from rock to soul, it reveals a previously underappreciated tender side of the folk icon in songs such as the acoustic ballad "California Stars" and the rollicking "Hoodoo Voodoo"; a sequel, Mermaid Avenue, Vol. II, was released in 2000.

In between the Mermaid Avenue sets, Wilco released its most ambitious album to date, Summerteeth (1999). Though many of the songs are built on traditional pop structures, the emotionally wrenching tales about true love, infidelity, and fighting loneliness are frequently spiked with beeping, sonar-like keyboard figures, a ghostly banjo, and studio-manipulated sound effects. Tweedy's music had, by now, shed nearly all of its twangy edge for the heady, unorthodox feel of songs such as "She's a Jar." The emotional centerpiece of the album incorporates the keyboard-produced sounds of melancholy strings, train whistle harmonicas, and lyrics that mix love and longing in a dark manner ("Are there really ones like these / the ones I dream / float like leaves / and freeze to spread skeleton wings / I passed through before I knew you"). Rather than paying homage to the country rock of Gram Parsons, Tweedy seemed more interested in following in the footsteps of Beach Boys' studio wizard Brian Wilson and his "Teenage Symphonies to God." While the maverick arrangements were seen by some as the hallmark of a talented pop songwriter shooting himself in the foot by trying to be overly avant-garde, the unique touches furthered Tweedy's reputation as a wildly gifted songwriter unwilling to compromise his art for pop stardom.


With Artistic Triumph Comes Career Uncertainty

That independent streak would be sorely tested after the delivery of the group's widely regarded masterwork, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002). If previous albums took liberties with traditional song structures, the band's fourth effort threw out the book entirely. Songs dissolve into washes of radio static, peals of ringing bells, arrhythmic piano runs, and disjointed rhythms, while the album's opening song, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," leads with one of the most intriguing lyrics of Tweedy's career, "I am an American aquarium drinker / I assassin down the avenue." Frustrated with Tweedy's reluctance to re-record any of the album's quirky, complex songs, Wilco was dropped by its longtime record label, Reprise Records, in 2001. The squabble with the label was chronicled in film-maker Sam Jones's documentary "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" (2002), which gave a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the artistic battle. Drummer Ken Coomer departed the band around this time and was soon followed by multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett. Chicago drummer Glenn Kotche replaced Coomer, while guitarist/keyboardist Leroy Bach replaced Bennett.

Left with a finished album and no record label to release it, Wilco posted the unreleased music on their website in late 2001. Though Tweedy had performed some of the songs during a solo acoustic tour in the winter of 2001, the website finally allowed fans to hear the collection on which the band takes their experimentation, with tape manipulation and abstract noise, to new levels while again retaining their command of pop smarts. The nostalgic, straightforward pop rock songs "Heavy Metal Drummer" and "Kamera" show the band's ability to play it straight, complete with three-part harmonies and recognizable pop song structures, though neither is what one might call conventional. Both serve as something of a musical palate cleanser for the more esoteric efforts on the album. "Radio Cure" hums with acoustic guitars that scrape and buzz over a ghostly, heartbeat drum figure until the sounds of helicopters and a haunting counter rhythm on vibraphone overtake the song midway through. When "Ashes of American Flags" breaks down halfway through its acoustic lament under a bizarre wash of white noise, Tweedy is able to steer it back on course before the song collapses in a heap of hissing feedback and warped tape. In Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Tweedy created a work that was the antidote to the manufactured pop of the day, one brimming with subtle musical flourishes and complex lyrics which reward repeated listens.

Wilco eventually persuaded Reprise to give the album back to them free and clear; they then signed a deal with Nonesuch, a label also owned by media conglomerate Warner Bros. Longtime manager Tony Margherita was frequently quoted as saying that Warner Bros. paid Wilco twice for an album they did not want. When it was finally released, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was hailed by everyone from the New York Times to Rolling Stone magazine as a masterwork by one of America's most talented bands. During an era when the music business was focused on hit singles over artistic advancement, Tweedy and Wilco survived turnover and turmoil to emerge with music that challenged as it matured.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

A.M. (1995); Being There (1996); Mermaid Avenue (1998); Summerteeth (1999); Mermaid Avenue, Vol. II (2000); Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002).

SELECTIVE FILMOGRAPHY:

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (2002).

gil kaufman

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Son Volt

SON VOLT

Formed: 1994, New Orleans, Louisiana

Members: Dave Boquist, guitar, banjo, fiddle, lap steel, dobro; Jim Boquist, bass, vocals; Jay Farrar, vocals, guitar (born Belleville, Indiana, 26 December 1967); Mike Heidorn, drums.

Genre: Rock, Alternative Country

Best-selling album since 1990: Trace (1995)

Hit songs since 1990: "Drown"


Son Volt's melancholy alternative country music owes as much to the slash-and-burn sonics of punk as to the plain-spoken storytelling of country legends Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. Their songs veer from reverent ballads to ferocious rock, but it is their commitment to authenticity that truly sets them apart from the glossy country mainstream. Lead singer and songwriter Jay Farrar formed the band after splitting from alternative country pioneers Uncle Tupelo, and has continued to mine the subject matter of broken hearts, small-town desolation, and highway driving with grace and poignancy. Though subsequent albums did not garner similar acclaim, the band's album Trace (1995) stands as a touchstone of a distinctly American genre.

Childhood friends Farrar and Jeff Tweedy formed Uncle Tupelo while attending high school in rural Belleville, Illinois, in the mid-1980s. The band cultivated a fervent local following by matching the raucous guitars of underground rock to the broken hearts and rough lives subject matter of traditional country music. Their constant touring and rising popularity in the Midwest earned the band a recording contract with Rockville Records, which released the critically lauded No Depression in 1990. Though not the first band to blend country music and hard-edged rock, Uncle Tupelo stood apart due to the considerable talents of its songwriters. Farrar tackled fiery political tunes and traditional ballads, while Tweedy's work leaned toward the melodic love songs of country-rock singer Gram Parsons. After several years of nonstop recording and touring, tensions between the pair forced Farrar to leave the band following the tour for Anodyne (1993), their final album. Tweedy recruited the Tupelo touring band to form Wilco, and Farrar repaired to New Orleans to contemplate his next move.

After a few months of rest and writing, Farrar recruited a pair of musicians, multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist and his brother, bassist Jim Boquist, from folk rocker Joe Henry's touring band to form Son Volt. Original Uncle Tupelo drummer Mike Heidorn rounded out the lineup, and the four-piece group began recording new songs in the fall of 1994 in Northfield, Minnesota, for producer Brian Paulson. Warner Bros. Records released the resulting album, Trace, in September 1995.

Trace showcases Farrar at the peak of his powers, writing and singing with a heartfelt intensity that easily matches his best work in Uncle Tupelo. The propulsive opening track, "Windfall," sets the tone for the record, with brightly strummed guitars, longing pedal steel and fiddle accompaniment, and a mission statement chorus of "may the wind take your troubles away / both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel." The album plays as a travelogue through a cracked-pavement Americana of AM radio, dusty ghost towns, and forlorn hearts. Though musically spare and bleak in parts, the themes of change and movement imbue each song with the hope of revitalization, and better days ahead. Thus, the somber "Tear Stained Eye" sits comfortably beside the raging guitars of "Route," achieving a perfect balance of country earnestness and rock defiance. The album also notched a minor radio hit with the song "Drown," a tribute to the restorative powers of the road. With a rapidly expanding fan base, Son Volt seemed poised to rescue commercial country music from its long slide into mediocrity.

Their follow-up effort, Straightaways (1997), is a darker affair, and did not achieve the broad appeal of Trace. Critics noted that while the album preserves the Son Volt hallmarks of driving rock, well-played traditional balladry, and fine musical interplay, it lacks the liberating spirit of their debut. Some pointed out that several tracks sound like retreads of earlier material. Fans remained loyal, however, urged on by the atmospheric "Last Minute Shakedown," and the small-town anthem "No More Parades." Wide Swing Tremelo (1998) attempts to answer the critics of Straightaways with a handful of rousing, hard-rocking tunes, but then lapses back into less inspired territory.

Perhaps to remedy this situation, Farrar issued a solo album titled Sebastapol (2001), which successfully functions as a cobweb-clearing exercise. While not as overtly experimental as former Uncle Tupelo band mate Tweedy's work with Wilco, the songs feature a fresh mix of instruments that give Farrar's familiar musings a significant kick. The album proves that Farrar can write music that appeals beyond his dedicated fan base. Whether or not this innovation ever seeps into Son Volt, Trace ensures the band's place within the worlds of both country and rock.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Trace (Warner Bros., 1995); Straightaways (Warner Bros., 1997); Wide Swing Tremolo (Warner Bros., 1998).

WEBSITE:

www.wbr.com/sonvolt.

sean cameron

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Wilco

Wilco

Alternative country group

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

When the progressive country band Uncle Tupelo broke apart in 1994, one of the groups cofounders, Jeff Tweedy, along with four other band members, knew that he still wanted to carry on. Thus, Tweedy formed Wilco, a group that held on to its country roots, while at the same time adopting a more pop/rock, commercially appealing sound. After releasing their debut album, 1996s AM, the group quickly earned a reputation as a no frills rock band, and Tweedy proved his value as a simple, personal, and uncomplicated storyteller.

In 1988, two longtime friends with a passion for traditional country and punk music, who were both natives of Belleville, Illinois, a decaying blue-collar suburb east of St. Louis, Missouri, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy formed Uncle Tupelo. Prior to Uncle Tupelo, the two had formed a punk band, the Primitives, which broke up when Farrars brother enlisted in the United States Army. Both men shared responsibility for writing music and lyrics, creating a persuasive blend of country punk, an intense style of punk-informed rural music, and were joined by drummer Mike Heidorn (later replaced by Ken Coomer).

The group toured on the Midwestern club circuit for a couple of years before releasing their debut album, No Depression in 1990, followed by Still Feel Gone in 1991, both for the independent Rockville label. These releases brought the group an instant cult following of both country and rock fans, as well as critical accolades from music magazines such as Rolling Stone. Tweedy, who played bass for the group, and Farrar, who served as lead guitarist and vocalist, each provided the group with a distinct sensibility. While Tweedy held the sweeter instincts and a critical interest in music, Farrar added soul to Uncle Tupelos songs with his grand, indignant voice and pained tone. The group returned in 1992 with a more subdued, acoustic album of traditionalfolktunes entitled March 16-20, 1992, produced by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, which also earned favorable critical attention. After signing with a major label, Warner Brothers Sire/Reprise, UncleTupelo released Anodynem 1993, considered the groups best album. Here, the group placed country in the background and opted for a more progressive sound.

Despite the bands newfound commercial appeal, major label contract, and growing popularity, Farrar abruptly left Uncle Tupelo in 1994 and formed a new American folk/country group called Son Volt. Neither of the men would elaborate on the exact circumstances of the split, but Tweedy did suggest that I think it was a personal decision for Jay, but he wasnt very communicative about anything to us, which was fairly normal for

For the Record

Members include Jay Bennett (joined band 1995), guitar; Ken Coomer, drums; Bob Egan (joined band 1996), guitar, fiddle; Max Johnston (left band 1996), guitar, vocals, fiddle, mandolin, banjo; John Stirratt, bass; Jeff Tweedy (born August 25, 1967, in Belleville, IL; married; children: one son, born c. 1996) guitar, vocals.

Formed band in St. Louis, MO, started touring throughout the Midwest, 1994; toured with H.O.R.D.E., released debut album A.M., 1995; released Being There, 1996; released Mermaid Avenue with Billy Bragg; released Summer Teeth, toured worldwide with R.E.M., 1999.

Addresses: Home Chicago, IL. Record company Reprise Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4694. Website http://www.RepriseRec.com.

Jay, as quoted by Alan Sculley in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I mean, a lot of things that were used as explanations were fairly contradictory so I wouldnt really be able to comment on it. Even though Tweedy and Farrar had worked together for years, Tweedy further commented that their relationship centered around music, rather than a personal friendship.

From the moment Farrar announced his departure, the remaining members knew that they loved making music together and did not want to stop. Thus, Tweedy took the leading role as guitarist and vocalist and renamed the group Wilco. The former members of Uncle Tupelo, which also included drummer Coomer, fiddler and mandolin and banjo player Max Johnston, and bassist John Stirratt, were later joined by a second guitarist, Jay Bennett (formerly of the group Titanic Love Affair). After closing the door on Uncle Tupelo, the newly-formed Wilco felt truly liberated. Certain things, I think, would kind of be tossed out before they ever became a song, just on the idea that it wouldnt really fit in on an Uncle Tupelo record or really didnt work next to Jays songs things like that, Tweedy told Sculley. Therefore, with a new sense of creative freedom, Wilco seemed determined to include all styles of music into their new band. In 1995, they joined the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) tour, playing some old Uncle Tupelo songs, as well as some new songs that later appeared on their debut release.

After relocating to Chicago from St. Louis, Wilco released their first album, A.M., in 1996 on the Sire/Reprise label. For the debut, the group, joined by guest guitarist Brian Henneman of the group the Bottle Rockets, maintained its country roots, but also added more pop and rock influences. Consisting of 13 tracks, 12 of which were written by Tweedy, A.M. opens with four solid rock songs, including Box Full of Letters, which deals with separation (perhaps in regards to Farrars leaving), and Casino Queen, a rock song full of unbridled energy. Throughout the rest of the album, the music deepens in scope, moving back and forth between heavier rock songs and mid-tempo ballads, such as the love songs Pick Up the Change, Thats Not the Issue, Shouldve Been in Love, and Too Far Apart. Bassist and rhythm guitarist Stirratt wrote and sang one song for the album entitled Its Just That Simple, a tearful, traditional country tune. Later that year, multi-instrumentalist Johnson left Wilco, and fiddler and guitarist Bob Egan joined the band.

The following year, Wilco released their second album, a 19-track double CD entitled Being There. Publications such as Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times raved about the groups latest collection, using catch phrases like album of the year and ambitious versatility, and their music saw air play on alternative rock radio stations across the United States. Like their debut, Being There included music from several genres, from neo-punk to rockabilly on top of their firm progressive country foundation. For example, the song Monday recalled the swinging rock of the Rolling Stones hit Brown Sugar, Outta Mind (Outta Sight) took inspiration from West Coast 1960s pop, and Kingpin boasted the sounds of swaggering country.

The band went back into the studio in 1997 to begin work ontheir third album. In the meantime, they tooktime off to work on a project with British folk singer and musician Billy Bragg in Dublin. In 1998, Bragg and Wilco released the critically acclaimed Mermaid Avenue, a collection of Woodie Guthrie lyrics for which the musicians wrote their own original music. The concept for the album came about in 1995 when Guthries daughter, Nora Guthrie, gave Bragg reams of her fathers handwritten song lyrics and asked him to write music for them. Although Guthrie had composed some of the music for the lyrics, he did not have the chance to write the notes down before he died in 1967 following a long battle with a rare nervous disorder called Huntingtons chorea. The resulting album, with music co-written by Wilco and Bragg, combined thefolk blueprint of Bragg with the soul and genre-bending tendencies of Wilco.

Subsequently, Wilco returned to Chicago to complete recording songs for Summer Teeth, released in 1999. A strong 1960s pop element came though in tracks like Im Always in Love, ELT, and Summer Teeth. However, Tweedy contrasted Wilcos bright pop songs with dark, often disturbing lyrics, although the overall feel of the album was upbeat. Theres a darkness to the lyrical half of the the record and theres an overwhelming brightness to the music, Tweedy informed Curtis Ross in the Tampa Tribune. The effort was to make the record more hopeful as it progressed. Like the groups prior work, Summer Teeth received critical praise and further solidified Tweedys reputation as one of Americas most stellar songwriters. Also that year, Wilco toured Europe and the United States, opening for the group R.E.M. in larger arenas and headlining their own show at smaller venues.

Despite Wilcos success after breaking away from Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy insisted that he still remains an ordinary guy. Im not some big rock star, but I do run into fans every now and then who think Im this super-special person and its weird, because you cant be who they think you are. Nevertheless, he admitted to acting freaked out when he met one of his musical heroes in 1966, when Wilco shared a bill with Johnny Cash at a show in New York City. I dont know if someone coached him on my name or something, but he actually walked into the room and said, Wheres Jeff? and my heart stopped, Tweedy recalled to Thor Christensen of the Dallas Morning News. After youve made afew records, you think you could meet [famous] people and not act goofy. But when Im around a guy like Johnny Cash, theres no way I can act or talk normally.

Selected discography

A.M., Sire/Reprise, 1995.

Being There, Reprise, 1996.

Mermaid Avenue, (with Billy Bragg), 1998.

Summer Teeth, Reprise, 1999.

Sources

Books

Kingsbury, Paul, editor, Encyclopedia of Country Music, Oxford University Press, 1998.

musicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.

Robbins, Ira A., editor, Trouser Press Guide to 90s Rock, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Periodicals

Capital Times (Madison, Wl), February 5, 1997, p. 1D.

Dallas Morning News, November 3, 1996, p. 1C; November 8, 1996, p. 33A; June 21, 1998, p. 1C.

Independent, April 2, 1999, p. 11.

Independent on Sunday, March 30, 1997.

New Statesman, March 26, 1999.

Newsday, June 13, 1995, p. B02; February 17, 1997, p. B07.

The Record (Bergen County, NJ), June 14, 1995, p. f09.

Rolling Stone, June 24, 1999.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 23, 1995, p. 04G; April 21, 1995, p. 06E; November 2, 1995, p. 11 ; January 1, 1997, p. 14; August 19, 1999, p. 26.

Spin, May 1999, p. 55.

Tampa Tribune, August 27, 1999, p. 18.

Toronto Sun, April 14, 1999, p. 63.

Wisconsin State Journal, April 8, 1999, p. 16.

Online

Reprise Records, http://www.RepriseRec.com (September 6, 1999).

Laura Hightower

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wilco

wilco (ˈwɪlˌkəʊ) will comply (in radio communications, etc.)

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