Monday, April 25, 2011

Alt-Country Pioneers: Jayhawks / Uncle Tupelo

Not quite country; not quite rock n' roll.  A little bit folk; a little bit outlaw.  Alt-country as a genre is difficult to define, but you probably know it when you hear it.  Even though veteran artists like Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, and Willie Nelson could now be thrown into this bucket, you wouldn't have given them that label before the early 90's, because it didn't exist.  It was around that time  that "Alternative Country" was born because of the recent crop of music that was rooted in traditional country but had no real similarities to the modern country sound coming out of Nashville.

I'd like to post a couple songs here that nod to two bands that don't get enough press these days for helping to establish the alt country movement.  Before Ryan Adams and before the Drive-By Truckers, there was The Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo.  The Jayhawks released their first album on a major label, Hollywood Town Hall, in 1992.  As a matter of music history crossing paths, it was one of the band's two front men, Gary Louris, who was instrumental in getting Uncle Tupelo signed to their first major label deal, with Sire Records, also in 1992.  Uncle Tupelo, as is now well known, was fronted throughout its short, tumultuous seven-year lifespan (only two of them after signing to a major) by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Son Volt's Jay Farrar.  The Jayhawks continued to record and tour until 2003 when they went on an extended hiatus.  In the last few years, they've reunited for a few one-off shows and there are rumors that they will record their first album in eight years some time before the end of 2011.

The Jayhawks
'Crowded in the Wings'
Hollywood Town Hall

Uncle Tupelo
'Screen Door'
No Depression


Anonymous said...

That whole jayhawks album is fantastic. Citw is a great choice.

Uncle tupelo were also awesome. Band split off into wilco and sun volt (real alt country gems).

Also check out the goldensmog albums. Those are fun.

Great post

Jeffrey Greenblatt said...

It's not really a rumor The Jayhawks are releasing aan album this year. They previewed some of there new material when I saw them at Webster Hall earlier this year. Really looking forward to hearing the full album. Those guys definitely should be getting more credit fot their influence on today's roots-americana acts

WeightStaff said...

I would have loved to have caught them when they played Webster, but wasn't able to make it. I'd have to think that a proper tour will come along with the new album. They put out some great music over the years.