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Jeff Tweedy - Together At Last - LP -

Price per Unit (stuk): €27.95


Armed only with his acoustic guitar, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy offers stripped-down versions of songs pulled from across his catalog, including songs originally cut with Loose Fur and Golden Smog.

For Wilco’s entire history, the band’s leader, Jeff Tweedy, has existed as a solo artist. Though the songwriter’s solo recorded output has been limited to the likes of bootlegs and the original score for the 2001 Ethan Hawke film Chelsea Walls, Tweedy alone thrives in a live setting. These shows are the only place where Wilco favorites and deep cuts sit comfortably beside songs from his other projects: alt-country cornerstone Uncle Tupelo, a strum-and-hiss trio with Jim O’Rourke and Glenn Kotche called Loose Fur, the rotating roots-rock collective Golden Smog, or, most recently, his father/son project Tweedy. And the appeal of his solo shows shows goes beyond the music. Tweedy’s curmudgeonly performance presence—from the stage, he discourages clapping along and isn’t afraid to call out those making too much noise—imparts a sense of conversational intimacy.

Together at Last celebrates Tweedy’s live solo presence, even if that isn’t the explicit intention. On 11 tracks that focus on his work in Wilco, along with a stray song each from Loose Fur and Golden Smog, the almost exclusively solo acoustic arrangements are similar, if not exactly the same, to the ones he’s been performing in theaters for years. The album is the first in a series recorded at his Chicago studio that will highlight his life as a songwriter, and it revises some of Tweedy’s best moments with mixed results.

Summerteeth standout “Via Chicago” and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot opener “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” are both all-timers, songs that transcend the Wilco songbook and stand worthy of these stripped-down, acoustic retellings. They work because of their contrast to their original recordings, both of which used deconstruction and clutter to maneuver Wilco’s straightforward melodies into more complicated territory, one that evoked transistor radio nostalgia and wistful memories. These production turns would ultimately distinguish Wilco from their alt-country peers, but here we’re reminded of how sturdy the songs are on their own. Deeper YHF cut “Ashes of American Flags” gets a similar treatment, with a spare re-recording to underscore lyrics that look for signs of hope from within moments of bleakness. Tweedy’s claim that he would “die if I could come back new” quivers with years of reflection, the song flowing with a new life.

Together at Last has only two non-Wilco tracks, but they illustrate what the set does best. “Laminated Cat” exists in a few different forms, including both the fuzzed-out YHF outtake “Not for the Season” and the Loose Fur version that infuses Tweedy’s straight-ahead pop sensibility with the hisses and squeals of his collaborators. But here, the bare-bones arrangement highlights the song’s calendar-flipping poetry, accentuating each verse’s sense of seasonal discomfort at the uncontrollable passing of time. Golden Smog’s “Lost Love” is an even a deeper dig, anchored by a wide-eyed sentiment that doesn’t try to be more than a direct love song. “Broken hearts all around me, but I don’t feel a thing,” Tweedy sings, lacking the cracked-skin weariness present on many of these new recordings, and thus honoring the youthful conceit of temporary romance that he wrote about 20 years earlier. This is Tweedy as excavator, rescuing a pair of gems that have been hidden in obscurity and offering them a fresh chance at appreciation.

Just as often, though, Together at Last lacks a sense of purpose. “Dawned on Me” and “I’m Always in Love” show how much the upbeat originals rely on production for their full impact. As acoustic renditions, they offer little more than skeletons of their former selves. “Hummingbird” fares even worse, with Tweedy, possibly unable to hit the song’s falsetto climax, whistling in place of a full-band coda. In a live setting, he’d be able to crack a joke about this affectation and move on from the moment, but on record, the song just hangs there, crying out for a little levity. With his wry charm absent, the album ultimately shows only a partial picture of Jeff Tweedy as a solo artist.

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