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Jeff Tweedy

+ {Loose Fur} + {Tweedy}

Responsible for creating two of the finest alt-country outfits of the 90s: UNCLE TUPELO and WILCO (and in part, supergroup GOLDEN SMOG and LOOSE FUR), workaholic JEFF TWEEDY (born Jeffrey Scot Tweedy, August 26, 1967, Belleville, Illinois) has become a formidable force in today’s fickle rock market. While former musical compadre JAY FARRAR made in-roads by way of SON VOLT and a solo career (that included a soundtrack to The Slaughter Rule), the migraine-suffering Jeff brought his own immaculate sense of purpose.
Released around the same time as Jay’s OST was Jeff’s soundtrack to actor Ethan Hawke’s CHELSEA WALLS (2002) {*5}, composed in large part by the WILCO leader and featuring some group alumni who’d appeared on `Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ (also 2002). While the bulk of the music consisted of pared-down, instrumental mood pieces well out of his band’s normal orbit, there were a couple of previously unreleased offcuts: one from “Mermaid Avenue” (`When The Roses Bloom Again’) – which he’d shared with BILLY BRAGG, and one from the WILCO vaults (`Promising’).
Seemingly in thrall to his newly expanded musical horizons, Jeff went on to cut an album’s worth of off-kilter experiments with JIM O’ROURKE and Glenn Kotche. An eponymous set released under the LOOSE FUR (2003) {*6} banner, the record spliced the various musical personalities in intriguing and often frustrating fashion. Spread over six lengthy pieces, the Drag City-endorsed set shifted between angular folk and shambolic Krautrock; testing tracks were `Liquidation Totale’ and `Laminated Cat’.
In lieu of another WILCO studio album (`Sky Blue Sky’) – `A Ghost Is Born’ was delivered in 2004, fans could take heart in a second LOOSE FUR set, BORN AGAIN IN THE USA (2006) {*6}; altogether a less uptight, more humorous and generally rootsier take on the WILCO-arcana, from its tongue-in-cheek title to the toe-tapping irreverence of `The Ruling Class’ and `Thou Shalt Wilt’. It was certainly a long way from UNCLE TUPELO’s 1990 debut, `No Depression’, or indeed the triumvirate of mid-late 90s sets by WILCO: `A.M.’, `Being There’ and `Summerteeth’.
Subsequent WILCO sets (`Wilco (The Album)’ and `The Whole Love’), plus production duties for LOW and MAVIS STAPLES respectively, and further session work for BECK, The MINUS 5, etc., took up Jeff’s spare time, while helping bringing up children with wife Sue Miller (whom he married in ’95) brought some degree of achievement when his drummer son Spencer showed promise as a drummer/percussionist.
Due to wife and mother Sue being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a father/son bonding process led to rehearsals and recordings under the TWEEDY moniker. Born from their recent hard times, SUKIERAE (2014) {*7} was something of a surprise to reviewers, capturing as it did a warm, back-to-basics approach. “Dad-rock” territory indeed, the near-Top 20 double-disc proved fittingly gentle in places (`High As Hello’, `Wait For Love’, `New Moon’, `I’ll Sing It’, `Low Key’, `Summer Noon’, etc), while tracks that let the boy become a man included the SEBADOH-esque opener, `Please Don’t Let Me Be So Understood’ and the 6-minute `Diamond Light Pt.1’. All in all, the heartfelt record made one think what ROY HARPER and then-teenage lad NICK HARPER might’ve sounded like some 30 years ago.
Moonlighting once again after composing every song for WILCO’s 2016 set, “Schmilco”, JEFF TWEEDY put together a stripped-bare acoustic set entitled TOGETHER AT LAST (2017) {*7}; spawned from recordings in January 2016 at The Loft. The Top 50 record comprised works from his early WILCO days as well as a few from his time propping up LOOSE FUR and GOLDEN SMOG; a single, `Laminated Cat’, surfaced that April.
But for featuring fresh cuts, 2018’s WARM {*8} solo set was similar in respects to its acousticity. The album’s timing was perfect as it coincided with the publication of Jeff’s memoirs, entitled Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). The re-introduction of drummer son Spencer kept it a sort of family affair, whilst Jeff’s wife was suffering from medical issues and his dad had recently passed away. The album itself was as sloth-core country-rock as one might’ve expected; opener `Bombs Above’ marking out his autumnal territory. At times he’s very much in the mould of LENNON (though `Let’s Go Rain’ is the antithesis of `Instant Karma’), however the moribund material such as `I Know What It’s Like’, `How Will I Find You?’, `How Hard Is It For A Desert To Die’ et al, had difficulty in spinning out hope and happiness when his inner world was closing in.
Issued on limited-edition vinyl the following “Store Day” April as a complementary piece to his previous set, WARMER {*6} possessed some nice touches such as `Orphan’ and `Ten Sentences’. However, the overall package, and indeed packaging, was so similar to its companion (a `Family Ghost’ anyone?), that many TWEEDY hipsters might yet have missed out on the subtleties of `Empty Head’ and `…And Then You Cut It In Half’.
© MC Strong 2008/LCS-BG // rev-up MCS Nov2014-Jun2019

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