Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The 10 Best Non-Wilco Jeff Tweedy Songs

As I type this, the curtains in my front windows are swinging softly in the breeze. What's problematic about this is that it's currently below zero here in Chicago and my windows are sealed tight. Unfortunately, that gentle sway is here to remind that my apartment's shitty single-pane windows are no match for the arctic vortices that, along with a seemingly-constant snowfall have defined this winter. But unlike everyone else in the goddamn country, I'm not complaining about winter being cold. I'm a well-documented fan of winter and I view this year's as more of a corrective to the watered-down global warming winters we've had of late.

I've found that I often use the winter to circle back to old passions of mine -

books, movies and, of course, bands that I used to OBSESS over but maybe hadn't thought of much in recent months or years. There's something about the cold and darkness, the silence and gorgeous-end-of-the-world feeling about a deep, snowy winter that brings me back to my roots and this winter that's meant listening to a lot of Jeff Tweedy.

Having been writing songs for nearly a 25 years, I don't think it's premature or out-of-line to say that Tweedy's proven himself to be part of line of great American songwriters that runs through greats like Cohen, Young, Newman or Dylan. He's always managed to balance his raucous D.I.Y. background, inveterate exploratory yen and love of classic American forms to produce songs that sound like instant classics without ever being too dated.

As I plowed through his impressive catalog, I decided that I wanted to take the time to highlight some of his music that your casual twentysomething Wilco fan might not have stumbled across. After starting with an all-time favorite cover of mine, I'm moving into lists, starting today. Thus I present you with a 10 of great songs written by Jeff Tweedy for his many side projects, super-groups and other bands that aren't Wilco.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Covering Our Bases: "I Wanna Be Your Dog" - Uncle Tupelo

Great music doesn't transcend genre boundaries so much as it devours them. The Beatles knew that "Twist & Shout" wasn't just an R&B barnburner, it was a garage-rock classic waiting to happen. Similarly, Al Green looked at the guitar pop bliss of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and knew that it had an organ-drenched soul treatment hiding in its DNA. Perhaps the band best at illustrating this principle was the Clash who looked at rockabillyreggaeR&Bskaclassic rock and infused them with a leftist snarl and turned them punk.

In its conception, Uncle Tupelo was all about smashing genres together. Throughout the late '80s Jeff Tweedy, Jay Farrar and their bandmates were taking the rebellious, defiant loserdom of punk, combining it with the drunken sorrow of country and seeing what stuck. Indeed, their 1990 debut album No Depression was generally credited as kickstarting the very idea of "alt-country". But as much as Uncle Tupelo reveled in the dynamics of Black Flag and the Carter Family, most of their early work sees them playing an either/or game with indie rock and traditional country and folk.