January 27th , 2014 will see the release Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression: Legacy Edition, a two disc volume comprising the landmark 1990 album alongside a bumper crop of previously unavailable demos, live tracks, and other rarities.
Released in 1990, No Depression is a genuine milestone in American rock ‘n’ roll, a still striking fusion of traditional folk and country with post punk innovation and hardcore ferocity. The album struck a loud, twangy chord throughout the American Indie Underground, inspiring countless bands as well as an online notice board and a magazine that served to both forward and document the thriving musical movement that came to be known as alt-country.
New mastering by veteran engineer Vic Anesini at New York City’s Battery Mastering Studios, No Depression: Legacy Edition sees the original classic album augmented by twenty-two extraordinary extras, including for the first time on CD, 1989’s legendary Not Forever, Just For Now demo tape. No Depression: Legacy Edition additionally includes an exclusive history by writer Richard Byrne, whose ardent support in St. Louis’ alternative weekly, The Riverfront Times, proved influential during Uncle Tupelo’s early career.
Jay Farrar (guitar/vocals), Jeff Tweedy (bass/vocals), and Mike Heidorn (drums) first came together as The Primitives, busting out teenage garage rock in their hometown of Belleville, Illinois. Fueled by the potent new influence of American roots music, the trio soon adopted the name Uncle Tupelo and began veering into uncharted creative territory. The band raised a ruckus from the jump, their careening tempos, distorted power chords, and unpredictable time changes touched and elevated by Farrar and Tweedy’s harmonies and lyricism.
Uncle Tupelo toured hard and swiftly churned up a devoted fan following, first in the Greater St. Louis area but soon spreading across the Midwest and beyond. In 1987, the band entered a friend’s home studio to record their first demos, self-released on cassette as Colorblind and Rhymeless. The Live & Otherwise cassette followed a year later, setting highlights from Uncle Tupelo’s notoriously frenetic live blowouts alongside embryonic renditions of songs like “No Depression” and “Blues Die Hard,” both making their remastered CD debut on No Depression: Legacy Edition.
1989 saw Uncle Tupelo hit producer Matt Allison’s Champaign, Illinois attic studio to record exhilarating early versions of many No Depression favorites. The tape – dubbed Not Forever, Just For Now, its title pulled from Farrar’s “Whiskey Bottle” –caused a commotion, prompting CMJ New Music Report to proclaim Uncle Tupelo as the Best Unsigned Band in America. That status didn’t last long – the trio signed with independent Rockville Records (later Giant Records) and got to work on their debut album proper.
No Depression was recorded over 10 wintry days in late January 1990 at Boston’s Fort Apache South with iconic producers Sean Slade & Paul Q. Kolderie. The album amplified Uncle Tupelo’s novel sonic approach while also shining a light on Ferrar and Tweedy’s evocative, populist songwriting.
In addition to their own unique songcraft, Uncle Tupelo famously put their dissident stamp on several universally beloved favorites. No Depression takes its title from its cover of Southern Gospel pioneer J.D. Vaughan’s “No Depression In Heaven” (later recorded by The Carter Family and late 50’s folk revivalists, The New Lost City Ramblers), and concludes with a rendition of the archetypal murder ballad, “John Hardy.” Outtakes from the period featured here include fiery versions of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ immortal “Sin City” and The Vertabrats’ proto-punk “Left In The Dark.”
Uncle Tupelo called it a day in 1994, leaving four acclaimed studio albums and a vigorous new genre in their wake. All three original members continued to scale musical heights, with Farrar and Heidorn reuniting in Son Volt and Tweedy founding the GRAMMY® Award-winning Wilco. In 2002, Uncle Tupelo teamed with Legacy to release 89/93: An Anthology, the band’s first ever assemblage of album tracks, demos, single sides, compilation cuts, and live radio sessions. The collection was followed in 2003 by remastered Columbia/Legacy editions of Uncle Tupelo’s first three albums, including No Depression, 1991’s Still Feel Gone, and 1992’s March 16-20, 1992, all appended with previously unavailable bonus material.