Note: this segment originally aired on October 25, 2011 on World Cafe. We share it again on the 30th anniversary of the release of the band’s debut, No Depression
The influential alt-country group Uncle Tupelo spawned Wilco and Son Volt shortly after it broke up in the mid-’90s. In this episode, we’ll hear archival performances from all three bands, and assess the state of their genre as it’s continued to develop.
Uncle Tupelo was born when three friends — Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn — decided to re-form their high-school band after its lead singer left for college. Based in Belleville, Ill., the members of Uncle Tupelo quickly realized that their punk idols The Ramones and The Sex Pistols were not the toast of their music scene. They began to explore country music, and resulting blend on the group’s 1990 album No Depression became synonymous with the alt-country sound. During its short but remarkable run, Uncle Tupelo recorded a live session with World Cafe before its split in 1994.
With the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, Farrar formed Son Volt, which has put out critically successful Americana albums from 1995 through its most recent record, American Central Dust, in 2009. The band has visited World Cafe on several occasions over the years, and we’ll play three songs from different points in the late ’90s.
Led by Jeff Tweedy, Wilco has released music that’s run the gamut from folk-rock to experimental pop. Wilco has graced World Cafe many times over the years, and we’ll hear a selection of songs from visits between 1995 and 2009. The band’s most recent album, The Whole Love, came out this year.