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Uncle Tupelo

With the release of their 1990 debut LP, No Depression, the Belleville, IL, trio Uncle Tupelo launched more than simply their own career -- by fusing the simplicity and honesty of country music with the bracing fury of punk, they kick-started a revolution which reverberated throughout the American underground. Thanks to a successful online site and subsequent fanzine which adopted the album's name, the tag "No Depression" became a catch-all for the like-minded artists who, along with Tupelo, signalled alternative rock's return to its country roots -- at much the same time, ironically enough, that Nashville was itself embracing the slick gloss associated with mainstream rock and pop.

Uncle Tupelo was led by singers/songwriters Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, lifelong friends born in the same Belleville hospital in 1967. During high school, the pair formed a punk cover band called the Primitives along with drummer Mike Heidorn and Farrar's older brother Wade. After Wade enlisted in the Army, the Primitives broke up, but in 1987, the remaining trio reunited, changed their name to Uncle Tupelo, and began incorporating elements of country into their music as well as writing original material. Touring constantly throughout the Midwest, the bandmembers eventually quit school as their music became more and more successful, and in 1989 they signed a contract with the small independent label Rockville.

Taking its name from the A.P. Carter gospel song covered therein, No Depression reflected the band's disparate influences, ranging from everyone from Hank Williams to bluesman Leadbelly through to the famed post-punk trio Hüsker Dü. The most rock-centric of Uncle Tupelo's releases, its songs were meditations on small-town, small-time life, candid snapshots of days spent working thankless jobs and nights spent in an alcoholic fog. After the release of "I Got Drunk," a brilliant single backed with a cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers' "Sin City," 1991's Still Feel Gone struck a finer balance between their rock and country aims. While Farrar's contributions -- sung in his reedy, Neil Young-like voice -- were often informed by a rootsy, scorched-earth mentality, Tweedy's, with their grittier vocals, delved deeper into the trio's punk origins, as typified by the song "D. Boon," a tribute to the late frontman of the legendary Minutemen.

A year later, Uncle Tupelo released March 16-20, 1992, an acoustic record which saw the group plunging fully into country and folk. Recorded live in the studio with producer Peter Buck (of the band R.E.M.), the album drew heavily on painstakingly authentic covers of standards like "Moonshiner" and "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" along with a fitting rendition of the Louvin Brothers' "The Great Atomic Power" and Farrar's and Tweedy's originals, which maintained the record's spare, haunting ambience. Shortly after its release, Heidorn left the group to devote time to his family and was replaced by drummer Ken Coomer, formerly of the group Clockhammer. Multi-instrumentalists Max Johnston and John Stirratt also signed on as part-time members.

In 1992, Uncle Tupelo signed to major label Sire/Reprise and in 1993 issued the LP Anodyne. Widely regarded as the group's definitive statement, it was a true country-rock hybrid which accented the power of both musical forms; the album even featured a cover of the song "Give Back the Key to My Heart" sung with its writer, roots rock pioneer Doug Sahm. After a tour in support of the album, however, the long-standing relationship between Farrar and Tweedy dissolved in bitter acrimony, and Uncle Tupelo disbanded; shortly thereafter, Tweedy recruited Coomer, Johnston, and Stirratt to form the band Wilco, while Farrar reunited with Heidorn in Son Volt. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Ryan Adams (who I like) is a freaking jukebox - so many songs, almost a .....shut the F up level...some t i m e s too Alt Pop feel. Alt Country Beatles Pop like. I like all these other bands who yield more creativity in there sound and instrument selections.
Ryan Adams (who I like) is a freaking jukebox - so many songs, almost a .....shut the F up level...some t i m e s too Alt Pop feel. Alt Country Beatles Pop like. I agree, I like all these other bands with more creativity in there instruments and selection/so u n d therein.
ah, this is Joe Ely.....
Great lyrics!
Just listened to Moonshiner and forgot what a great song it is...love UT!
.
Well unlike you guys I don't personally know Ryan Adams. But I do know his music and songwriting is something f**king great! As well as tweedy
Ryan Adams is a little girl.
Ryan Adams could be an important influence on alt country if not for the fact that he's a temperamenta l little p**sy. Also, his song writing isn't nearly on the par with people like Jeff Tweedy, Jay Farrar and Rhett Miller. You can tell him I said so too.
dlambert489
Saw Uncle Tupelo at the Metro on the Anodyne tour, they had a full band with a bunch of players. Great show
lbjdirect4
More, please! Instrumental was really nice!
kacelj
No, Ryan Adams IS the definition of alt-country, besides being a total badass.
Farrar's reedy, Neil Young-like voice??? I think you're confusing Jay and Jeff.
I am watching a Sundance documentary about what they are calling the Chicago-base d Wilco... If they are from St Louis area, how is that??
webersf
Son Volt & Uncle Tupelo & AM by Wilco is some wonderful music
Uncle Tupelo is the definition of alt-country. Jay is the best.
So damned good
Seen Jay and Son Volt about a dozen times now. From Memphis to Sydney , Australia. Some of the best shows anyone could ever hope to see. Nobody , and I mean nobody , tells it like Jay Farrar. Much , much love and respect to maybe the best American songwriter of his time.
Cool Soft Boys cover. Never thought a Tenn band would cover some English band; hence, ALTERNATIVE COUNTRY!
first time ive heard this band. some more deep stuff to sink my teeth into and enjoy. king farook
mcratt23
One of my college roomates grew up down the street from Jay or Jeff, can't remember which one (may have been both), and introduced me to them in '91....20 years later still wishing they were together....
The best of their generation!! ! No doubt about it.
Uncle T and Son Volt/Jay F. win the day for me. I like early Wilco and they are always good in concert, they are starting to lose me. Looking forward to Jay coming to Kent Stage--Ohio in Nov!!
titusgambrel l
good stuff
balls
country rules. unfortunatel y popular culture doesn't show the good stuff.
Don't forget Golden Smog!
Love it all Uncle Tupelo Wilco Sun Volt. Awsome Music.
BELLEVEGAS RULES!!!
In my dream we hijack modern country radio one day, blast "Outdone," or "The Long Cut," then announce that, for 24 hrs., we're gonna take over the airwaves and show what actual country (and rock & roll) sounds like? I bet Kenny Chesney would never sell another album.
One of my favorite bands. I also am a huge fan of what both Jay and Jeff have done since Uncle Tupelo.
jiah.stevens o n
i like Jay much better than Jeff. but, he's kinda heavy sometimes. maybe later i will like Jeff better.
raphaellorr
reunion
dds3434
I wish Jay Farrar and Tweedy could've stayed together longer but now we have two other bands in Wilco and Son Volt.... although I think neither is as good as they were together.
I just discovered this band (off of a Wilco/Kings of Leon station) and they're great. I'm bummed they're not still making music....
it maybe burnt at the end of atrack on a cd found afew that way
Mbashcra, it's on the Bonus Track edition of Anodyne.
I'm a tupelo fan and I,ve never heard "wherever", Pandora says its on Anodyne, but I know its not because I have that album, its not on any album I have and I,ve got em all. If anybody knows about this song please let me know
At the time, Clearly AMERICA'S BEST. Highly recommended. They aren't easy, but that isn't what this (what you feed yourselves) is about.
I haven't listened to these guys or Son Volt, but I know that Wilco is amazing. Jeff Tweedy is a genius, and I highly recommend checking them out.
Belleville, IL? Who knew? That's right across the river from me.
acole17


























































































































































































































































I need a reunion !
Awesome. Sounds a lot like Neil Young.
Exactly.
erik.ipsen
The band that started it all... Long live whiskey & rock n' roll! This band is the reason I learned to play the guitar.

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