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Wilco|Cruel Country

Cruel Country

Wilco

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Much will be made of Wilco recording a "country" album. Frontman Jeff Tweedy has said that "country music is simply designed to aim squarely at the low-hanging fruit of the truth"—but that's an idealistic vision that isn't always true anymore. It's more that the genre understands universality, creating a fantasy of what love should be, of revenge, of a simpler life and time to enjoy it (even if it's just long enough for a cold beer). Or, too often, the "truth" is little more than a furrowed eyebrow sighing for three minutes over something truly horrible in the world. Thank goodness Wilco doesn't seem to know this. This record is brutally, beautifully honest. "I don't mind/ When certain people die/ I can't cry/ I wonder why," Tweedy sings on the lazily dreamy "Hearts Hard to Find," confessing something no one is supposed to say out loud. "It's worse than neglected when you need the one who loves no more," he describes Southern border migration on "I Am My Mother." "There is no middle/ When the other side would rather kill than compromise," goes "Hints," an easy connect-the-dots to Mermaid Avenue, the band's Woody Guthrie project with Billy Bragg—and it doesn't get more authentically American or country than Guthrie (even if the genre remains sheepish about Guthrie's socialism). Wilco's music has always had trace elements of the Grateful Dead—which is, as Margo Price brilliantly put it, "country music for people who also like LSD." (In the case of Wilco, it's probably more like Dad Grass.) You can hear it on the title track with its loose and jangling beat, or the sweet and easy skiffle of "All Across the World." "Many Worlds," meanwhile, is a seven-minute-long countrified trip that deserves its own laser show. ("When I look at the sky/ I think of all the stars that've died," Tweedy sings, securing his place as the alt-rock Eeyore.) And when the band doubles down on country sounds, it's a delight. "A Lifetime to Find" is great, an upbeat honky-tonk exchange between a mortal and the grim reaper: "Oh Death, oh Death/ I was just getting dressed/ The place is a mess/ I was hoping you'd forget" is answered with "Oh yes, oh yes/ Death never rests!" "Falling Apart (Right Now)" is extra twangy, delving deep into the canyons; "Ambulance" flirts with delicate fingerpicking; "Please Be Wrong" has an early '60s standard feel akin to Willie Nelson's "Hello Walls." There are lovely surprises, like the somber horns of "Darkness Is Cheap" (cribbing from Dickens' A Christmas Carol: "Darkness is cheap, and so Scrooge liked it.") And the lightly racing "Bird Without a Tail / Base of My Skull" features word-play lyrics like the lullaby "Hush, Little Baby," each line riffing off the previous: "When the sky began to roar like a lion at my door/ When my door began to crack it's like a stick across my back/ When my back began to smart, was a pen knife in my heart." © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz

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Cruel Country

Wilco

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1
I Am My Mother
00:02:35

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

2
Cruel Country
00:03:26

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

3
Hints
00:03:38

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

4
Ambulance
00:03:11

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

5
The Empty Condor
00:03:53

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

6
Tonight's the Day
00:03:26

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

7
All Across the World
00:03:42

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

8
Darkness is Cheap
00:03:19

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

9
Bird Without a Tail / Base of My Skull
00:05:04

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

10
Tired of Taking It Out On You
00:03:36

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

11
The Universe
00:03:33

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

12
Many Worlds
00:07:52

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

13
Hearts Hard to Find
00:03:27

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

14
Falling Apart (Right Now)
00:03:16

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

15
Please Be Wrong
00:03:01

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

16
Story to Tell
00:04:08

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

17
A Lifetime to Find
00:04:07

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

18
Country Song Upside-down
00:02:46

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

19
Mystery Binds
00:03:08

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

20
Sad Kind of Way
00:02:48

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

21
The Plains
00:03:08

Jeff Tweedy, Composer, Producer - Wilco, MainArtist - TOM SCHICK, Producer

© 2022 Words Ampersand Music (BMI) ℗ 2022 dBpm Records Inc.

Album Description

Much will be made of Wilco recording a "country" album. Frontman Jeff Tweedy has said that "country music is simply designed to aim squarely at the low-hanging fruit of the truth"—but that's an idealistic vision that isn't always true anymore. It's more that the genre understands universality, creating a fantasy of what love should be, of revenge, of a simpler life and time to enjoy it (even if it's just long enough for a cold beer). Or, too often, the "truth" is little more than a furrowed eyebrow sighing for three minutes over something truly horrible in the world. Thank goodness Wilco doesn't seem to know this. This record is brutally, beautifully honest. "I don't mind/ When certain people die/ I can't cry/ I wonder why," Tweedy sings on the lazily dreamy "Hearts Hard to Find," confessing something no one is supposed to say out loud. "It's worse than neglected when you need the one who loves no more," he describes Southern border migration on "I Am My Mother." "There is no middle/ When the other side would rather kill than compromise," goes "Hints," an easy connect-the-dots to Mermaid Avenue, the band's Woody Guthrie project with Billy Bragg—and it doesn't get more authentically American or country than Guthrie (even if the genre remains sheepish about Guthrie's socialism). Wilco's music has always had trace elements of the Grateful Dead—which is, as Margo Price brilliantly put it, "country music for people who also like LSD." (In the case of Wilco, it's probably more like Dad Grass.) You can hear it on the title track with its loose and jangling beat, or the sweet and easy skiffle of "All Across the World." "Many Worlds," meanwhile, is a seven-minute-long countrified trip that deserves its own laser show. ("When I look at the sky/ I think of all the stars that've died," Tweedy sings, securing his place as the alt-rock Eeyore.) And when the band doubles down on country sounds, it's a delight. "A Lifetime to Find" is great, an upbeat honky-tonk exchange between a mortal and the grim reaper: "Oh Death, oh Death/ I was just getting dressed/ The place is a mess/ I was hoping you'd forget" is answered with "Oh yes, oh yes/ Death never rests!" "Falling Apart (Right Now)" is extra twangy, delving deep into the canyons; "Ambulance" flirts with delicate fingerpicking; "Please Be Wrong" has an early '60s standard feel akin to Willie Nelson's "Hello Walls." There are lovely surprises, like the somber horns of "Darkness Is Cheap" (cribbing from Dickens' A Christmas Carol: "Darkness is cheap, and so Scrooge liked it.") And the lightly racing "Bird Without a Tail / Base of My Skull" features word-play lyrics like the lullaby "Hush, Little Baby," each line riffing off the previous: "When the sky began to roar like a lion at my door/ When my door began to crack it's like a stick across my back/ When my back began to smart, was a pen knife in my heart." © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz

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