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ALBUM REVIEW: Wilco – Cruel Country

WILCO

CRUEL COUNTRY

DPBM RECORDS

‘Country’ as in the USA or ‘Country’ as in the genre? Cleverly it’s a subtle blend of both on this new 21 track double album from the band that long ago took an experimental and ‘anything goes’ diversion, from alt-county to post-country. More than that it’s a wide-ranging, intimate and nuanced example of a band playing together live in the studio, adding fascinating colours and textures to Jeff Tweedy’s songs that address the heart and a damaged nation.

There’s a lot to take in here but the highlights are aplenty. From Pat Sansone’s fantastic honky tonk percussive guitar playing on ‘Falling Apart (Right Now)’, to drummer Glenn Kotche’s intricate and playful patterns on Tonight’s The Day’. ‘Mystery Binds’ sounds like a dark and hazy, Neil Finn meets post-rock composition while ‘Many Worlds’ could come from a deeply melancholic movie soundtrack before it blooms into a glorious cosmic jam.

At their core, any number of these tracks could appear on a Tweedy solo album but it’s what the rest of the band weave and paint around his words and melodies that’s the point of differentiation. Cline and Kotche may be the most immediately recognised geniuses but the rest of the band are all essential and, most importantly, utterly tasteful players on this album, making it their finest since Sky Blue Sky.  

Chris Familton

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