So, it’s day three and we have arrived at number 8 in our writers’ picks. A seminal album without question, but does it live up to its folkloric status in the pantheon of great americana albums? Let AUK writer, Tim Newby, who placed the album as his personal number 1 choice, persuade you that it most certainly does – and more.
Uncle Tupelo was not simply a good band, they were a genre-defining, once-in-a-generation type band. They were patient zero for the modern americana scene, paving the way for bands like the Bottle Rockets, Old ‘97s, the Drive-By Truckers, Whiskeytown, and so many more. When you think of americana music – the notion of a contemporary music that incorporates American roots-music styles, blues, bluegrass, string-band, folk, acoustic, and delivered in a modern setting, often with a full-electric band – Uncle Tupelo is the perfect representation of it. They incorporated roots-based music into what they created, but with a modern edge that continually pushed forward the rich tradition of those styles. Many of the bands they looked to for inspiration were lumped under the quaint title of folk-rock or country-rock, but those descriptions fall short of describing the energy and grit of Uncle Tupelo and did not encompass what they were doing musically. Uncle Tupelo effortlessly melded an aggressive punk-edge, softened by a countrified-vibe and were unafraid to proudly wear influences as diverse as the Carter Family, Hank Williams, the Minuteman, and the Replacements.
Over their brief time they released four studio albums. All those studio albums were something special, though none was more special, more ground-breaking, and more important than their debut ‘No Depression’. It was so special it even provided inspiration and lent a name for the genre’s flagship magazine. Nothing captures the angst and bleakness that was Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy’s midwest landscape more accurately than ‘No Depression’. Pounding guitars and sweet melodies are balanced by Farrar and Tweedy’s critical eyes and sharp, storytelling tongues. Some people might say ‘Anodyne’ or ‘March 16-20, 1992’ are better albums. Those people would be wrong. ‘No Depression’ is the sweet spot of americana, the fulcrum between the old and the new. It perfectly encapsulates the roots of the music, distilling all those rural flavours that go into what we call americana. It hints at blues and folk and tells old-time tales, yet at the same time it sets the table for the future as it reshuffles the deck of roots music for a whole new generation.