It was the fall of 1993. I was in my sophomore year of college in Boston. I was sitting in a friend's apartment listening to Neil Young and talking music with a bunch of folks. That evening, the band Big Head Todd & The Monsters were playing on our campus. We were all preparing to go see Big Head Todd when an out-of-town visitor asked if I'd rather go see a show at The Paradise. Being that I didn't give a crap about Big Head Todd, I inquired. "Uncle Tupelo", he said. After considering it, I decided to remain with my friends and go see Big Head Todd. The following morning we all got together for breakfast. I asked the out-of-towner how the show was, to which he laconically replied, "Amazing". He then offered to head out to his car and grab their latest cd. I will never, and I mean NEVER, forget the moment that "New Madrid" came through the speakers. After a mere ten seconds, I looked over at my buddy Brian and we were both completely floored. We spent the rest of the day listening to "Anodyne" and within 24 hours I owned all four Uncle Tupelo records. And then it all changed. My interest in music became my passion, and at the risk of sounding absurdly hyperbolic, my life. I couldn't get enough. I sought out UT live shows, I joined mailing lists, I bought all the bands that sounded like UT. I traveled hundreds of miles to see shows. Hell, I even DROVE to their hometown of Belleville, Illinois just to try and absorb what inspired their writing.
It's now 14 years later and little has changed. Music still shapes and inspires nearly everything that I do. It's my career. It's what I do every spare second. I seek out vinyl. I read books about my favorite artists. I subscribe to multiple music magazines. I still travel all over the country to see shows.
As everyone knows, Uncle Tupelo disbanded in 1994 and thus formed Wilco and Son Volt. The latter released three fantastic records from 1995-1998 but have since put out fairly lackluster material. Wilco, on the other hand, have remained my favorite band for well over a decade. I can vividly remember the first time I heard ALL of their records. I listened to "AM" for the first time in Brian Negri's college room shortly after midnight madness. I listened to "Being There" on my turntable in Allendale, NJ two weeks before its release (a record store in Hoboken held an advance for me).
Then came the fantastic "Summerteeth", the two beautiful Billy Bragg collaborations, the hugely popular and somewhat groundbreaking "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and 2004's "A Ghost Is Born".
Just a few weeks back Wilco released "Sky Blue Sky" to critical apprehension. Unlike all of their previous records, this record was not met with wide acclaim. The songwriting sounded somewhat mundane, the instrumentation was considered a bit tepid. I listened four or five times and felt disappointed. Had Jeff Tweedy finally hit a creative wall? Now a month or so after absorbing the record, the answer is absolutely no. This may not be his best work, but it's an outstanding record. From "You Are My Face" to "Impossible Germany" and "Either Way" to "Side With the Seeds", Wilco have once again produced an astounding collection of songs. It's only June, but "Sky Blue Sky" will likely land as my #1 record of the year. Looking back, Wilco has held that honor for me in 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2002. "A Ghost Is Born" is the only Wilco record that hasn't landed atop my year end list.
When skimming over my music collection there are three artists that always stand above the rest: Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Jeff Tweedy. But I've got Tweedy in his prime. And "Sky Blue Sky" is further proof that he's yet to descend from greatness.
"Nothing more important, than to know, someone's listening" --Jeff Tweedy