March 16-20, 1992 [Bonus Tracks]

by: Uncle Tupelo

While Uncle Tupelo's first two albums occasionally nodded toward the quieter side of traditional country music, they were dominated by tough, guitar-driven rock & roll which stylistically split the difference between the Minutemen and Neil Young. So Uncle Tupelo's third album, March 16-20, 1992, came as a bit of a surprise to their fans when it first hit the racks; almost entirely acoustic, the album stripped the group's sound to the bone and focused at once on the framework of Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy's songwriting and the traditional folk music which had contributed to their musical (and political) world view. Seven of the album's 15 tunes were covers, and with the exception of the Louvin Brothers' much-covered "Atomic Power," all were traditional Appalachian ballads, some of which dealt with the politics of rural poverty ("Coalminers"), while others documented the everyday tragedies of life along America's margins ("Lilli Schull," "I Wish My Baby Was Born"). As for the group's originals, the different songwriting approaches of Farrar and Tweedy were becoming more telling on March 16-20; while Farrar's tunes were solid, somber, and resonant, Tweedy began investigating more angular melodic approaches and stylized lyrics (most notably on "Black Eye" and "Wait Up"). However, if the passion and belief which informed Uncle Tupelo's music was presented in quieter and more subtle form on March 16-20, 1992, it was still very much in evidence, and this album helped to reaffirm the importance of acoustic music and folk's roots in the growing alt-country movement. Columbia/Legacy's 2003 reissue boasted new mastering which boosts the clarity and transparence of these sessions, while including six bonus tracks, including the previously unheard instrumental "Take My Word," covers of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (different from the version on 89/93: An Anthology), and the theme from The Waltons, and homemade demos of three tunes which later appeared on the album. ~ Mark Deming

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