Results for Jeff Tweedy
This past July, Sound Opinions took the show out of the WBEZ studios and in front of a live audience at Chicago's Lincoln Hall. The impetus for a field trip? Tweedy, the new project by Wilco lead singer and founder Jeff Tweedy. The band features Jeff on vocals and guitar, Jeff's 18-year-old son Spencer Tweedy on drums, Liam Cunningham on keyboards, Jim Elkington on guitars & Darrin Gray on bass. Jeff and Spencer spoke with Jim and Greg about how the 20 song album, Sukierae, came together after Spencer played drums on One True Vine, the Jeff Tweedy-produced album by Mavis Staples. In fact, Spencer calls Mavis another“Grandma.”Sukierae came at a much-needed time for the Tweedy family; Jeff's wife, Sue Miller, began her fight against lymphoma. And her nickname provides the album its title. So what is it like to tour with your dad and play actual "Dad Rock"? What happens if Spencer dates a Wilco fan? And when can we expect new Wilco music from the now-20-year-old band? Tune in for answers to those questions, plus songs from the new record.Go to episode 460
Mike Heidorn of Uncle Tupelo
You can trace alternative country's roots to the 1960's when rock musicians such as Gram Parsons, The Byrds and the Flatlanders began dabbling with and reinvigorating country music. It was part of a wider investigation of American roots music in rock, a move toward more“authentic”styles. These rockers looked to country greats like Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard for inspiration — Bob Dylan famously collaborated with Cash on "Girl From the North Country." In the '70s and early '80s, a new generation of punk rockers started digging into traditional country for inspiration, including X, The Mekons, Rank & File, Jason and the Scorchers and the Long Ryders. Then third wave of alt country hit in the late '80s and early '90s, led by The Jayhawks out of Minneapolis and Uncle Tupelo, the trio of Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn, out of Belleville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. Uncle Tupelo's debut album,“No Depression,”took its name from a Carter Family song, "No Depression in Heaven," and it's one of many the key albums in defining the alt-country movement of this era. We have this band to thank for groups like Farrar's Son Volt, Tweedy's Wilco, Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown, the Drive-By-Truckers and the Old 97's …and not to mention No Depression Magazine. Legacy Recordings recently reissued No Depression, complete with some never before released demo tracks from 1987 to 1989. And to talk about it, Jim and Greg are joined by Uncle Tupelo's founding drummer Mike Heidorn.Go to episode 442
Getting all six members of the band Wilco on the show is no easy feat. But, this week Jim and Greg were able to snag an hour with the band just before their first U.S. performance in support of Sky Blue Sky, their sixth studio album released last week. The men all met at Northwestern University's Patten Gymnasium, but aside from the shoddy acoustics, it was a treat for all. Those not familiar with Wilco's story, should check out Greg's book Learning How to Die. But, by now, most have heard about the trials and tribulations of Jeff Tweedy and his often-changing cast of characters. The current cast includes Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Nels Cline, Mike Jorgensen and Pat Sansone. The members of Wilco are all great musicians in their own right with a number of side projects, but, as they explain to Jim and Greg, there is nothing like collaborating with band mates (or living like The Monkees).
A lot has been said about the fact that between the recording of A Ghost Is Born and Sky Blue Sky, chief songwriter and lead singer Jeff Tweedy went to rehab to deal with prescription drug dependency and depression. In fact, with its intense fan base and media scrutiny, there's not a lot about the band that hasn‘t been said. The question is posed as to whether or not Jeff’s recovery affected the music. But, he explains that the biggest effect is just feeling physically healthy. Still, as Jim notes, you can't help but sense a more positive outlook on Sky Blue Sky — a tone that Jeff attributes to maturity more than anything. Listen to the tracks "Side With the Seeds," "Sky Blue Sky," and "What Light," and you be the judge. Then check out the exclusive bonus track, "You Are My Face."Go to episode 77
Victims of the Music Business
This week Jim and Greg stick it to the man, or more specifically — record companies. They discuss the phenomenon of major labels pulling the plug on established artists. The most recent victim is Nellie McKay, whose album Pretty Little Head was denied release by Sony Music. McKay wanted to release one version, Sony wanted to release another, and after the“pretty little”singer told her label to take it or leave it, they left it. Of course, upon hearing the advance copy, our hosts can't necessarily blame them.
Whether you enjoy the music or not, McKay's situation does pose an interesting question of how much creative control an artist has while under major label contract. As Jim states:“As long as there have been major labels, there have been executives deciding that they know better than the artist.”What are some of the other lost albums that fell prey to the big bad record company? Jim and Greg list off some of their favorites, including:
The Butthole Surfers
During the early '90s when "alternative" music was achieving commercial success, The Butthole Surfers were signed to Capitol. When the alternative fad waned, their label no longer appreciated the band's weird aesthetic and refused to release their album After The Astronaut. The Buttholes sued Capitol and demanded early release from their contract. The record, however, remained under Capitol ownership. Fans needn't fret though; most of the material was re-recorded and released by Hollywood Records.
The hometown favorite's album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was delayed release by its label because it was more conceptual than it was pop. Conceptual, of course, is hard to sell, so Reprise Records asked Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates to go back into the studio and find a hit. Wilco decided to stand by its album, and bid farewell to Reprise. Normally it would take a lot of time and money to recover tapes made under a label's contract, but in this case, Reprise let Wilco take their music, rather than face a public relations nightmare. The album was eventually released in 2002 by a different Warner Music subsidiary and ended up being the biggest selling of their career. The story played out very nicely in life, in film, and most importantly, in print.
This singer's label woes were perhaps the most highly publicized of the bunch, but according to our experts, the often difficult artist needs to take some of the blame. Apple decided to work with producer Jon Brion for a third time, but felt she needed more time on this effort. Epic Records, not pleased with what they‘d been hearing all along, told Apple that they’d need to approve a track at a time. Or at least that's what she thought she heard. In a dramatic move, Apple stopped recording, leaving the album unfinished. Neither Epic nor Apple wanted to release the music, however some of the songs leaked, and the response was so overwhelming that Apple was inspired to start working again. This time, she joined up with producers Mike Elizondo and Brian Kehew, and Extraordinary Machine can be heard in not one, but two forms.Go to episode 117
Box Set Gift Suggestions
This episode of Sound Opinions isn't all negative. Jim and Greg also provide you with some holiday gift suggestions for the music lover in your life. They recommend wrapping up the following box sets:
- The Clash: The Singles
- What It Is! Funky Soul And Rare Grooves (1967-1977)
- Rockin‘ Bones: ’50s Punk & Rockabilly
- Jerry Lee Lewis: A Half Century of Hits
- Tommy Boy Presents Hip Hop Essentials
Here are some other box sets to check out:
- Steve Reich, Phases: A Nonesuch Retrospective
- Gram Parsons, The Complete Reprise Sessions
- Buddy Guy, Can't Quit the Blues
- Waylon Jennings, Nashville Rebel
- The Byrds, There is a Season
- Various Artists, A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box
- The Pretenders, Pirate Radio
- Tori Amos, A Piano: The Collection
- The Bee Gees, The Studio Albums, 1967-1968
- Robert Plant, Nine Lives
- David Crosby, Voyage
And for DVD fans:
- Michael Franti, I Know I'm Not Alone
- Nirvana, Live! Tonight! Sold Out!
- Jeff Tweedy, Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest
Mavis Staples One True Vine
Mavis Staples has released her 13th studio album called One True Vine. She tapped Wilco's Jeff Tweedy to produce for the 2nd time, but this time around, Jim says, he is not so awed by her. The material is better and the sparse production showcases her voice more. Jim says Buy It to this dark, quiet record. Greg, who knows a thing or three about Mavis Staples and Wilco, has admired all the singer's recent albums. And he thinks she's achieved one of the greatest second acts in rock history. He gives this“American treasure”a Buy It.
Mavis Staples You Are Not Alone
During this show Jim and Greg review some of this season's big new releases. First up is the latest from Mavis Staples. The iconic Chicago soul singer turned to neighbor and fan Jeff Tweedy of Wilco to produce You Are Not Alone. Greg calls Staples one of America's great singers. And all of the facets of her sound and personality are represented here. He gives the album a Buy It rating. Jim has been waiting for Mavis to make her masterpiece record that would tell the world how great she really is. You Are Not Alone is a fine effort, but the songs are nothing special, according to Jim. He worries that Tweedy was intimidated by Staples and didn't push her enough. For that reason Jim tells listeners to Burn It.
Veteran Chicago band (and Greg Kot biography subject) Wilco returns with its 10th album, Schmilco. On this record, leader Jeff Tweedy explores the alienated feelings of his childhood spent as a misfit in downstate Illinois. Schmilco is drawn from the same sessions as the band's previous album, Star Wars, which Greg says was a jarring but welcome departure for the band. Schmilco swaps the noise of Star Wars for an unsettlingly weird folkie vibe à la early Tyrannosaurus Rex. No record in their discography sounds like this one, and Greg feels it's deserving of a Buy It. Jim agrees, noting that for a while it was beginning to sound like Wilco had a formula. These last two records have tossed that up, featuring a rawness and realness you wouldn't expect from a band this far into its career.
Wilco Sky Blue Sky
After much anticipation, Sky Blue Sky, the new album by Wilco, has finally been released. As always band members Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt are on board, and this time they're also joined by Glenn Kotche, Nels Cline, Mike Jorgensen and Pat Sansone. While their last album, A Ghost Is Born, was fairly experimental, this release is more of a return to form. In fact, Greg describes the record as kind of a“one-trick pony,”but it's a trick he really enjoys. Because the record has been streaming at Wilco's website, many fans have already formed their opinions and are not over the moon about Sky Blue Sky. But the music is so quiet, so intimate that Greg urges listeners to let it sink in more. One might expect musical acrobatics from a guitar wizard like Cline and a master percussionist like Kotche, but their performance is intentionally subtle in order to serve the song. Greg gives Sky Blue Sky and its message of consolation a Buy It. Jim also came to this conclusion, but much later in his listening experience. It took 12 times through for this critic to overcome his expectations of a ferocious, rocking record. But, as he explains, if any artist has earned the right to ask us to listen to something 12 times, it's Jeff Tweedy. Jim notes that this album is representative of a specific time and space for Tweedy and company, one that was very introspective. He wishes that Tweedy had responded more to what's happening in the world around us, and admits that at times, some of the songs can border on tedious. But, because Tweedy is as important an artist as someone like Bob Dylan or Neil Young, Jim thinks it's worth going on any journey the musician invites you on. He also gives the new Wilco a Buy It.
Richard Thompson Still
Still is the 25th solo album from folk rock guitarist, Richard Thompson. The former Fairport Convention musician collaborated with Wilco frontman and producer Jeff Tweedy. Greg wasn‘t exactly disappointed, but a little let down after Thompson’s ferocious 2013 album, Electric. In Still, he explores some darker and more serious themes like loss of faith in humanity. However Greg was happy he balanced those tracks with lighter and more humorous songs like "Guitar Heroes." He gives it a Buy It. Jim actually found“Guitar Heroes”cheesy. He also doesn't think Tweedy added much in his production. But because of wins like "Josephine" and "Long John Silver," Jim says Buy It.
Wilco Star Wars
The Chicago-based band Wilco, led by Sound Opinions guest Jeff Tweedy, released a surprise album, their 9th, last week called Star Wars. The band then proceeded to play the ENTIRE album as the headliners of the Pitchfork Music Festival. Jim thinks this album is a return to form, finding Tweedy and company returning to the style of music following Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Summerteeth. He loves the melodic nature of the album and gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees and thinks this is their best album since A Ghost Is Born. He really enjoys the mix of pop sensibility and studio manipulation and distortion. He feels like the band is as loose and engaged as ever and also gives Star Wars a Buy It.
Mavis Staples Livin' On a High Note
Mavis Staples had a legendary career with her family's gospel and soul band The Staple Singers, which was a major part of the protest movement of the 1960s and scored huge hits for Stax in the 1970s. Mavis reinvented herself as solo artist in 2000s, collaborating on records with Ry Cooder and Jeff Tweedy. For Livin' On a High Note, she and producer M. Ward as a producer asked a variety of contemporary songwriters to write material for her to sing, including Neko Case, Nick Cave, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. Jim loves how the best songs bring Mavis full circle by referencing on the Black Lives Matter movement. While the other songs are hit and miss, Mavis Staples is a“national treasure”and her voice is as powerful as ever. Jim is still waiting for her end career masterpiece, but this album is a definite Buy It. Greg – who literally wrote the book on Mavis Staples – points to We'll Never Turn Back as her masterpiece, but says this album is very good too. He loves what she does even with the lesser songs, like Vernon's generic love song, which she transforms into a moving address to her sister Yvonne Staples. In the middle of her 70s, Mavis Staples is doing some of the best work of her career.
Pops Staples Don't Lose This
Reviewing a posthumous release is a tricky thing. You want to honor a great artist with a glowing review, but inevitably there's always something lacking. Jim and Greg agree on this when it comes to Pops Staples' final album, Don't Lose This, released 15 years after it the music was recorded and after the artist died. Having Pops on record so late in his life is like a gift to music fans, but Jim hears his voice deteriorating and compares it to Johnny Cash's recordings with Rick Rubin. Greg agrees that this isn‘t Pops’ best work or the place to start with The Staples Singers. But, both critics hear standout songwriting moments that still resonate today. Indeed:“Don't Lose This.”The album, produced by Jeff Tweedy, gets a double Try It.
Next up Drs. Kot and DeRogatis call another patient in from the waiting room. Rachel from Chicago, IL describes her musical symptoms as that of being stuck in a rut. She explains that she hasn't purchased any music in the past few years, and only listens to albums or mixes that her friends give her. Rachel is eager to improve her musical health though, and is willing to take her medicine — however bad it tastes. In order to steer Jim and Greg in the right direction, Rachel gives her medical/musical history . She counts U2 (during the Joshua Tree-era) and Tom Petty as two of her favorite artists, and explains that she really appreciates melody and lyrics in her music.
Dr. Jim gives the first prescription. He clues into Rachel's heartland rock leanings, but also wants to challenge her more. He decides to give the patient a dose of Wilco. Like '80s-era U2 and Tom Petty, Jeff Tweedy and the members of Wilco are strongly influenced by guitar-based American folk and rock. There is a strong emphasis on lyrics and on telling stories of the American condition. But like U2, who chose to work with avant-garde producer Brian Eno on The Joshua Tree, Wilco can also be very experimental. Jim finds this is especially true of their last album A Ghost is Born.
Dr. Greg is up next. He suspects that one of the things Rachel likes so much about her favorite music is how anthemic it is. Both Bono and Petty are strong frontmen that get a rise out of their audiences. He believes this is also the case with the music of Montreal band The Arcade Fire. In fact, U2 opened up their last tour with a performance of the song "Wake Up" off their debut album Funeral. Again, the Arcade Fire might be a little more stylized than what Rachel is used to, but Greg hopes she will appreciate their epic sound.
A week later, the patient returns. Rachel relays that she is feeling a bit better, but is not totally cured. She realized that some of the Wilco and Arcade Fire songs were actually already in her iTunes collection without her even knowing it. Rachel enjoyed both albums, but not completely from beginning to end. She liked the more anthemic songs on Funeral like "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Crown of Love," but found some of the tracks a little noisy. However nothing was as noisy as Wilco's 15-minute experimental jam "Less Than You Think." But, even Jim and Greg agree that it's OK to skip past that“test”to more traditional pop/rock compositions like "Theologians" and "The Late Greats." Rachel doesn‘t think she’s replaced her favorite standards, but looks forward to keeping up with these two bands and getting more new music like… The Shins (up next in the show).Go to episode 61