Saturday, January 14, 2017

Uncle Tupelo - March 16-20, 1992

For Uncle Tupelo's third album, released in 1992 at the height of heavy grunge, the band kept largely to acoustic folk.  This collection of originals mixed with traditional American songs sounds almost timeless.  Early on, a grim reading of Coalminers rubs shoulders with Jeff Tweedy's jauntier Wait Up.  Jay Farrar's contributions are generally strong - the brief Criminals is an early highlight, a bitter strum of being "criminals looking for something to do", while Shaky Ground has echoes of REM (not surprising as Peter Buck produced).  Tweedy's no slouch here either, Black Eye lays the groundwork for Richmond Fontaine's more stripped down material.  By contrast, versions of Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down, Moonshiner and Atomic Power are a little too close to folk pastiche for comfort.  Although a whole album of this can get a bit repetitive, the original material here saves the day.  Towards the end, Fatal Wound is a gorgeous, laid back going-nowhere ballad with a fine steel guitar part.  Overall, the country feel to the album might seem off-putting at first but the quality of the songs grows on repeated listening.