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Reissue and expansion of trailblazing alternative country album

March 12, 2014

A recent reissue of the debut album from alt country trailblazers Uncle Tupelo is in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week. Let’s get into it.

Uncle Tupelo
“No Depression”
Legacy Recordings

If asked to name a seminal recording of the alt country movement when just lifting off the ground in the early 1990s, the debut album “No Depression” from Uncle Tupelo would no doubt be at the top of the heap. When I first heard this album not long after its original 1990 release for the small indie Rockville Records label, it leapt out of the speakers like a punk rock record of a different ilk. The songs were fast and furious with abrupt stops and starts, qualities embodied by all good punk bands. Just a few songs in came the title track, a cover of a Carter Family song. Other songs like the rough, ragged and weary “Whiskey Bottle,” the beyond-pretty “Screen Door” and a fast-paced, but loyal cover of the traditional tune “John Hardy” cast both the album and band in a whole different light. The back story was a heartland band (Belleville, Ill.) that dug The Minutemen as much as it did the Carter Family and Lefty Frizzell. The Uncle Tupelo sound was tightly wound, but well worn at the same time. One wouldn’t necessarily call it twangy (though there was the occasional pedal steel flourishes), but the rootsy element of the music struck a chord in rock and rollers looking for that real country feel in music. The songs were blue collar in content as viewed through the eyes of early twentysomethings. Thanks to the Legacy Recordings catalog division of Sony Music, “No Depression” now gets the deluxe reissue treatment. It expands the original release to two discs with the trailblazing 1990 album alongside an abundance of previously unavailable demos, live tracks, and other rarities. Disc one containing the original issue of “No Depression” is a no brainer and still sounds fresh and tight. I’ve got to confess that I'm not usually one for bonus discs with demos and outtakes, but disc two of this set containing the original “No Depression” demo called “Not Forever, Just For Now” is pretty darn great. Known as the “Matt Allison No Depression demos,” it features nearly all of the tracks comprising the original cassette release. Add to that a meaty 24-page booklet containing a history of the band and various band ephemera from the day and if you’re any kind of Uncle Tupelo fan, the reissue of “No Depression” is well worth your dollar. Visit www.legacyrecordings.com.

LIVE SHOTS:

Capitol city heroes Deer Tick returns to its original base of operations with a big show at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence (79 Washington St.) on Friday evening. Riding high on its critically acclaimed 2013 release “Negativity” which has been hailed by publications from the New York Times to Rolling Stone to the Wall Street Journal, it’s the band’s first appearance in Providence since the album’s release. It should make for a special homecoming. King Sickabilly & His Full Moon Boys and the Boston-based duo You Won’t are in the opening slots. Doors are at 8 p.m. and music begins at 9 p.m.

Go back to the 1980s and into the early 1990s and the New Haven-based band Miracle Legion was arguably the hottest indie rock band in New England. After calling it quits, front man Mark Mulcahy would resurface as the musical force behind the mid-1990s cult TV show The Adventures of Pete & Pete fronting the “house” band called Polaris. After its cancellation, Mulcahy would embark on a solo career where he’s been since the late 1990s. The year 2013 saw the release of his latest solo album, “Dear Mark J. Mulcahy I Love You.” It’s a terrific collection of rootsy pop songs with the always clever songcraft and melodic magic of Mulcahy at its core. He makes his first Providence appearance in countless years with a show at The Columbus Theater (270 Broadway) on Saturday night. Local heroes The ‘Mericans who contributed a song to a Mulcahy tribute record in 2009 are in the opening slot. Doors are at 8 p.m. and music begins at 9.

In recent years, Providence has become a regular stop for the Austin, Texas-based modern-day traditionalist Wayne “The Train” Hancock. Hancock released his eighth album called “Ride” (Bloodshot Records) just a year ago and it features a hearty serving of his signature mélange of roadhouse blues, hepcat boogie, rockabilly, and juke joint swing. He brings it all to Firehouse 13 in Providence (41 Central St.) on Saturday night. Doors are at 8 p.m. and music kicks off at 9.

Dan Ferguson is a freelance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.

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