Monday, January 23, 2012

Best Bands of All Time - #2 Uncle Tupelo

#2 - Uncle Tupelo

Uncle Tupelo was the first of these great bands that I really got into on the ground floor, just after their first album No Depression was released. I have a pretty vivid (though potentially wholly inaccurate) memory of Mikko bringing his vinyl copy over to my parents house one summer during college. I remember replaying the track "Whiskey Bottle" a few times on my bedroom turntable.

I think we'd already been introduced to the burgeoning alt-country scene via local college faves The Jayhawks and The Gear Daddies, but Uncle Tupelo took it to another level. The title track on their first record was a cover of an old Carter Family standard and they were the kind of band that best bridged that gap from 1930s Americana to 1990s indie rock.

Perhaps the most memorable Uncle Tupelo show I attended was July 25, 1992 at the Mower County Fairgrounds in Austin, MN. Also on that bill were Run Westy Run, The Jayhawks, The Gear Daddies and maybe Soul Asylum. It was a who's who of my favorite bands at the time, so the rain and mud didn't deter from my enjoyment of the show.

Here's a sample of some Uncle Tupelo where you can get a sense of their roots as well as their rock influences -- "The Long Cut" from their 4th and final album Anodyne, with Jeff Tweedy on vocals:

Uncle Tupelo had two terrific songwriters in Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, and their breakup after only 4 albums was due mostly to the personality conflict between the two. Of course the good thing of only making 4 records is that they are all brilliant, not a weak spot to be found. They haven't reunited and both went on to form successful bands on their own -- Son Volt and Wilco, respectively. Son Volt's Trace is timeless and is still one of my favorite albums of all time.

Here's "Whiskey Bottle" the song I was drawn to right away. It's off of their first album, No Depression, and features Jay Farrar on vocals singing one of my favorite lyrics of all time:
I can't forget the sound / cuz it's here to stay / the sound of people chasing money / and money getting away 

Their lyrics are awfully mature for a couple guys in their low 20s.

If Uncle Tupelo never gets back together, I think it'll be for the best. Their legend remains untarnished and I'd love to see it stay that way. 

The Deets
If you could buy just one album: Start with their first one, No Depression, but get 'em all, there's only 4 of 'em.
Album that I listen to the most 15 years later: March 16-20, 1992.
Best lyric: "I can't forget the sound / cuz it's here to stay / the sound of people chasing money / and money getting away" from "Whiskey Bottle"
Best song that rocks to buy right now on iTunes: "Chickamauga" off of Anodyne
Best country song to buy right now on iTunes: "Moonshiner" off of March 16-20, 1992.


BLindberg said...

I'm right there with you on these, Hoov. Nicely selected. With re: Uncle Tupelo, I can spend hours on end banging out (or trying to bang out) those songs on my acoustics. It was interesting to see you call out Moonshiner. Had the collection on shuffle on the car ride home and it came on. Walked in the door, hugged the kids, pulled out the J-200 and slung the harmonica around my neck and duly massacred the classic tune before sitting down for dinner. Then read about it on your blog. Again, nicely done on your part. BL

Kirk said...

I never would have thought that Moonshiner & that 3rd record would hold up so well for me over time. I listen to March 16-20 more than their others. It's timeless and I love how I can't even tell which songs are traditional and which are penned by the fellas.

John Maniaci said...

I was there...

Gear Daddies will headline July 25 show
WEBER Jun 29, 1992 (0)
AUSTIN -- What could be the final concert by the Gear Daddies, the popular rock band from Austin, will be held July 25 at the Mower County Fairgrounds.

``Goin' Home With the Gear Daddies,'' will feature five other acts in a day-long outdoor concert.

Also on the bill for the ``Goin' Home'' show are Run Westy Run, Uncle Tupelo, House of Large Sizes, Draghounds, and J Keyser. The gates will open at 1 p.m., with music starting at 1:30.

Tickets are $10 if purchased before July 4, $13.50 from July 4 through July 24, and $17.50 on the day of the show. Tickets are available at all TicketMaster outlets, at Nemitz's in Austin, and can be charged by phone, 252-1010 in the Rochester area.

Kirk Ahlberg said...

John: thanks for sharing the official lineup! My memory is a little hazy.