Uncle Tupelo, Anodyne
An artistic epiphany well worth the road-less-traveled journey
On March 16-20, 1992, Uncle Tupelo had found a way out of the post-punk trappings of their origins. Acoustic guitars and traditional music had provided a back door into an entirely different world, and if stepping through that door meant turning their back on alt-rock just as Nirvana et al. had opened the floodgates, the artistic epiphany that bloomed on Anodyne was well worth the road-less-traveled journey. Gone was the power-trio format; both Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy were on guitar now, with bassist recruit John Stirratt joined by new drummer Ken Coomer and multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston, whose fiddle touches on the gorgeous opener “Slate” announced that a new day was rising for the band. Tweedy’s “Acuff-Rose,” a tribute to the legendary Nashville publishing team, sketched out the bridge Uncle Tupelo was building to the past; a cover of Doug Sahm’s “Give Back The Key To My Heart,” with Sahm himself chiming in on the second verse, set that bridge in stone. By the time they hit Farrar’s blazing Civil War metaphor “Chickamauga,” it was clear they’d made one of the decade’s great albums. There’s a bit of retrospective irony in the bitter “We’ve Been Had,” when Tweedy declares with a sneer, “Every star that hides on the back of the bus/ Is just waiting for his cover to be blown.” Soon enough, he’d face that fame-bound reality firsthand.