Jeff Tweedy first rose to prominence with Uncle Tupelo in the late '80s and early '90s, but with his own group, Wilco, he would step out from the shadow of that legendary alt-country group and his former partner, Jay Farrar, becoming a major figure in Americana, indie rock, and contemporary folk with his eclectic body of work. Belleville, Illinois high school friends Tweedy and Farrar started Uncle Tupelo as the Primitives in St. Louis in the mid-'80s. After a run of four albums (including their seminal debut, No Depression), Farrar abruptly quit in 1994 and started Son Volt, who continued Tupelo's spirit of moody and rousing ruralism. Tweedy and the remaining Tupelo members picked up as Wilco. With that group, Tweedy would permanently lay to rest the impression that Farrar had been the sole dark genius of Uncle Tupelo. (In fact, one theory holds that Farrar disintegrated the group because he was threatened by Tweedy's burgeoning creative role.) Wilco's first album, A.M. (1995), seemed designed to please the Uncle Tupelo audience. However, the following two-disc Being There (1996), a sprawling achievement that garnered comparisons to the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, and the experimental but pop-oriented Summerteeth (1999) would establish Tweedy as a distinct and formidable force in popular music. Tweedy has also been part of Golden Smog, an all-star collective who has included members of the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, and Big Star; appeared on the Handsome Family album Through the Trees; and also appeared on Blue Rodeo leader Jim Cuddy's solo debut, All in Time. In addition, Wilco collaborated with Billy Bragg on the two Mermaid Avenue albums, which set music to the lost lyrics of Woody Guthrie. In 2000 and 2001, Tweedy undertook a series of solo acoustic shows and formed a side group with Jim O'Rourke and Glenn Kotche, Loose Fur, before settling in to work on the next Wilco album. Unfortunately, Wilco found themselves without a label when Reprise Records rejected their album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, though they opted to tour in spite of this situation. After streaming the album for fans on Wilco's website, Nonesuch stepped in and gave Yankee Hotel Foxtrot an early 2002 release, and the album became a critical and commercial success. That same year, Tweedy wrote and recorded some solo material for Ethan Hawke's film Chelsea Walls, which became the backbone of movie's soundtrack album. During his downtime with Wilco, Tweedy worked in the studio with the Minus 5, Beck, and Charlie Louvin, while serving as producer on recordings by Mavis Staples and Low, and he released a live album in 2006 drawn from a live performance, Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest. In 2013, Tweedy began writing and recording songs for a solo project which became a family affair when his teenage son, Spencer Tweedy, began playing drums on the sessions. The father/son band adopted the name Tweedy, and their debut album, Sukierae, was released in 2014, the same year Wilco released a pair of archival albums and played residencies in several cities to celebrate their 20th anniversary. In June 2017, Tweedy presented his first proper solo album, Together at Last, consisting of acoustic reworkings of 11 songs from his back catalog. ~ Erik Hage & Mark Deming
19 albums sorted by Bestsellers
Narrow my search
Rock - Released April 16, 2002 | Nonesuch
Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Few bands can call themselves contemporaries of both the heartbreakingly earnest self-destruction of Whiskeytown and the alienating experimentation of Radiohead's post-millennial releases, but on the painstaking Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco seem to have done just that. In early 2001, the Chicago-area band focused on recording their fourth album, which ultimately led to the departure of guitarist Jay Bennett and tensions with their record label. Unwilling to change the album to make it more commercially viable, the band bought the finished studio tapes from Warner/Reprise for 50,000 dollars and left the label altogether. The turmoil surrounding the recording and distribution of the album in no way diminishes the sheer quality of the genre-spanning pop songs written by frontman Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates. After throwing off the limiting shackles of the alt-country tag that they had been saddled with through their 1996 double album Being There, Wilco experimented heavily with the elaborate constructs surrounding their simple melodies on Summerteeth. The long-anticipated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot continues their genre-jumping and worthwhile experimentation. The sprawling, nonsensical "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" is as charmingly bleak as anything Tweedy has written to date, while the positively joyous "Heavy Metal Drummer" jangles through bright choruses and summery reminiscences. Similarly, "Kamera" dispels the opening track's gray with a warm acoustic guitar and mixer/multi-instrumentalist/"fifth Beatle" Jim O'Rourke's unusual production. The true high points of the album are when the songwriting is at its most introspective, as it is during the heartwrenching "Ashes of American Flags," which takes on an eerie poignancy in the wake of the attacks at the World Trade Center. "All my lies are always wishes," Tweedy sings, "I know I would die if I could come back new." As is the case with many great artists, the evolution of the band can push the music into places that many listeners (and record companies for that matter) may not be comfortable with, but, in the case of Wilco, their growth has steadily led them into more progressive territory. While their songs still maintain the loose intimacy that was apparent on their debut A.M., the music has matured to reveal a complexity that is rare in pop music, yet showcased perfectly on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. ~ Zac Johnson
Rock - Released March 28, 1995 | Sire - Warner Bros.
Uncle Tupelo played their final show on May 1, 1994, and little more than a month later, the band's final lineup, minus co-founder Jay Farrar, was cutting an album under the name Wilco. The group's transition happened so quickly that frontman Jeff Tweedy hadn't even found a new lead guitarist when they set up in the studio -- Brian Henneman from the Bottle Rockets was drafted to play on the band's first sessions. Given all this, it should come as no surprise that Wilco's debut LP, 1995's A.M., is by far the one with the closest resemblance to Uncle Tupelo. The attack sounds more than a bit like the twangy roar of UT's final album, 1993's Anodyne, albeit with a brighter and better detailed mix, and many of the songs recall the melodic style of Tweedy's contributions to the former incarnation of the band. And Henneman's soloing serves a similar function to Jay Farrar's Neil Young-inspired leads in Uncle Tupelo, even if Henneman's playing has a leaner personality of its own. But stripped of the dour tone Farrar brought to the band and the occasionally strained seriousness of his outlook, A.M. sounds like this band is having a blast in a way they never had before. It's all but impossible to imagine Uncle Tupelo kicking up their heels with numbers like "I Must Be High," "Casino Queen," or "Box Full of Letters," and the interplay between the musicians -- Henneman on guitar, Tweedy on vocals and guitar, John Stirratt on bass, Ken Coomer on drums, and Max Johnson on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and Dobro -- feels playful and easygoing, even on sorrowful tunes like "I Thought I Held You" and "Should've Been in Love." And while Tweedy was still finding a more individual voice as a songwriter, "Dash 7" and "Too Far Apart" contain echoes of the sort of music Wilco would be making a few years later. A.M. beat Trace, the first album from Jay Farrar's Son Volt, into record shops by six months, but in the minds of many alt-country fans, Tweedy's album was the weaker effort. However, viewed in the context of Wilco's catalog more than 20 years on, A.M. sounds like the point where Jeff Tweedy and his collaborators let go of Uncle Tupelo and took a bold, smart step into their future. ~ Mark Deming