Review: Wilco – “Tough Country”

Review: Wilco - "Tough Country"



May 27 2022

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dBpm records

«Wilko goes country.»

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They not only play music, but also formally embrace and punish the genre. “Cruel Country” is an album about America at its best and most ruthless. Or as Jeff Tweedy sang in the title track: “I love my country / Stupid and cruel / Red, white and blue.” But did 21 songs – on the band’s first double album since 1996 – get overdosed? The answers are coming.

alternative country

Wilko has always gone his own way. After the first two albums, “AM” was influenced by country and country rock. (1995) and double “Being There” (1996), the band was primarily Instead of that. They are exactly the definition alternative country, or No Depression, as the genre was called for a few years – after a song by The Carter Family, which was also the title of former Tweedy band Uncle Tupelo’s debut album – before discovering that one could also call it Americana. Now the circuit is closed.


From The Loft in Chicago, the band gradually expanded the sound in a more experimental direction. I started hacking «Summerteeth» in 1999 (six in Dagbladet), And manifested with jubilation The masterpiece “The Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (2002), That’s where ‘Sound Engineer’ and ‘Bling Pong Head’ Jim O’Rourke came to the scene. Six new!

But since some of their best moments are strongly country-inspired songs like “Far, Far Away” and “Forget The Flowers” from “Being There” and “California Stars” from their first collaborative project with Billy Bragg where they set tunes on the unreleased Woody Guthrie-Lyrics, Mermaid Avenue (1998), should come as no surprise that they are now releasing a country album.

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also Previous album “Ode To Joy” (2019).She had soft country songs. But here they go the whole way. And of course, going from the occasional country song to filling a double album with 21 songs, mostly vocal, is a huge step!

recorded directly

Another important change also in “Cruel Country” is the lyrics. We immediately understand what Jeff Tweedy wants to convey, which is known as partially ciphertext. It is perhaps also Wilco’s most “ordinary” album from a musical point of view.

The form of registration is also different. For the first time in many years, the six sat together in the studio and recorded the entire album live, almost without overshoot. It becomes more lively and charming, with a few small flaws here and there. ‘It’s a mess.’ somewhat similar to democracy »Tweedy told Rolling Stone magazine.

life and death

“Cruel Country” is about life, death, and much in between. Hard to find hearts It is an honest acceptance from Tweedy:
“There is no objection to some people dying
I can’t cry
I wonder why
I can lie and say it makes me sad
There is something wrong with me
Maybe I’m just bad
My heart is hard to find sometimes
Oh, I lose it all the time »

«Omar search» It is another path that revolves around death. Have you achieved what you wanted in this life?


None of the songs are more country From his first honky-tonk-inspired single, racy, drenched in pain meltdown (now)which could have been recorded in Nashville in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by the wonderful poem “Please be wrong”while it was eight minutes long, piano-driven and epic “many worlds” It is the most against this concept and is reminiscent of recent Wilco albums. It is often called the cosmic state. We’re in for what’s the best part of the album, the middle part.

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LITTLE DRIVE: The electric motor is immersed in

LITTLE DRIVE: The electric motor is immersed in the “Cruel Country”, and the Nels Cline plays a more weak role. Jeff Tweedy on the right. Photo: Shutterstock / NTB
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Jeff Tweedy sings softer than we’re used to. But how was he able to “dance” super guitarist Nils Klein, who is only so carefully attended here? He likes to mark concerts with his outstanding guitar playing, such as when he performs one of the most beautiful guitar solos (on “Impossible Germany”). So it will be interesting to see how much material from “Cruel Country” is joining the stage. We’ll find out when Wilco plays on Saturday 11th June at the Loaded Festival in Kontraskjarit in Oslo. This is the fourth stop on the world tour.


So as to answering the question at the beginning: Yes, this reviewer thinks it’s an overdose. 77 minutes too much. Wilko’s voice is definitely there, but there are a lot of songs here that we would have been without. They stay a bit for the really good songs, which admittedly are also in abundance here.

It’s of course a “luxury problem” considering there are 21 of them, but “Cruel Country” would probably be better if it was pared down to a single album.

*The twentieth anniversary of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” was celebrated in September with the release of seven different versions of the album, the most “extreme” being the hard box containing 82 previously unreleased tracks on eleven vinyl records as well as a CD, radio and record party etc.

Ashura Okorie

Ashura Okorie

"Infuriatingly humble web fan. Writer. Alcohol geek. Passionate explorer. Evil problem solver. Incurable zombie expert."

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