Friday, April 25, 2008

"I'm going where there's no depression..."

It's a stunningly beautiful Friday in Denver so let's lighten the mood and get the weekend started with a music post.

Here's a video clip of Uncle Tupelo playing "No Depression" in Bloomington Indiana circa November 1992.

Seeing Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy playing bass (with a pick no less!) is a real kick. Tweedy has changed significantly musically since the days of UT. His fellow band mate, Jay Farrar, though is still reliably alt-country, with an emphasis on the country. Watching him sing this old Carter Family song he just oozes authenticity.

I think that's the quality that attracts me (an educated middle class guy who's not even 30 years old) to old timey, folk, country and bluegrass music. It's just dripping with authenticity. These are real songs, written about real problems experience by real people. Even with the heavy Celtic and Scots-Irish influence in many of the songs by the 1930's, when the songs were being recorded for the first time, they had become decidedly American songs. They are as much a part of Americana as apple pie and baseball.

Uncle Tupelo's version of "No Depression" was the title track to their 1990 debut release. The song and the album were so influential that the term "No Depression" became adopted by the alt-country movement as a sort of title. The music magazine that chronicled the alt-country scene was even called "No Depression" - still is as a matter of fact.

Now A.P. Carter couldn't have had any idea when he penned the song in the mid 1930's that 55 years later some punk-rocker kids from Belleville Illinois would discover his music and change the course of modern rock music. I think though that that it is an amazing testament to the power of the simple song.

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