No Depression [Bonus Tracks]

by: Uncle Tupelo

Within what would come to be known as the "alt-country" scene, Uncle Tupelo's first album, 1990's No Depression, was the shot heard around the world; they most certainly weren't the first band to fuse the heartache of country with the brains and brawn of punk rock, but they managed to bring the two styles together without camp or gimmicks, in a manner that truly honored both genres and allowed their shared celebration of passion and belief above all else to shine through, and its example would be followed by literally thousands of musicians across the country. Over a dozen years after it first hit the racks, No Depression still sounds like a truly inspired bit of record-making; Jay Farrar's songs carry the bulk of the album, and great songs they are, especially the charging "Graveyard Shift" and "Factory Belt" and the mournful "Whiskey Bottle" and"Life Worth Living." It would take a bit longer for Jeff Tweedy to start playing on an equal level, but the realistic yet impressionistic snapshots of "Train" and "Screen Door" made it clear the man had the goods, and as a team Tweedy, Farrar, and Michael Heidorn sound all but unstoppable here, tight as a drum and investing each song with a life-or-death level of emotional force. Columbia/Legacy's 2003 reissue actually manages to improve one of the most impressive debut albums of the 1990s; the remastering is sharp and well-detailed, and this version tacks on six bonus tracks (seven if you count "John Hardy," which Rockville Records tagged onto the original CD release of the album, but left off the LP), including the previously unreleased "Blues Die Hard" (from a four-track home recording), the hard-to-find "Won't Forget," terrific covers of "Left in the Dark" and "Sin City," and stripped-down demos of "Whiskey Bottle" and "No Depression." If you're a longtime fan, upgrading to this edition of No Depression is well-worth your time and money, and if you're not all that familiar with the group, this album will show you why Uncle Tupelo was a band who mattered so much to so many. ~ Mark Deming

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