Wilco – Cruel Country (Indie Exclusive, Colored Vinyl, Red, White) —— Album Review
Before he was the driving force behind Wilco, singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy came of age musically in the influential, early ‘90s alt-country band Uncle Tupelo. When Tweedy announced the next Wilco release would be a country album, longtime fans’ hearts skipped a beat.
True to Tweedy’s word, Cruel Country, the band’s 12th release splits the difference between Wilco’s 2007 album Sky Blue Sky and Uncle Tupelo’s final album, Anodyne.
Cruel Country comes out of the gate showing the fightin’ side of Tweedy. On opening track “I am My Mother,” Tweedy takes aim at “dangerous dreams” “streaming over the Southern border” and declares “If it was up to me, I would have rejected/The idea that money could keep you poor. On the following title track, Tweedy confesses “I love my country, stupid and cruel/Red, white, and bluе.” It’s not hard to figure out who Tweedy is singing about on “Hints”: “There is no middle when the other side would rather kill than compromise.”
The lyrical bite is tempered by the music. Never hurried, Cruel Country lopes along at a gentle pace for most of its 77 minutes. Strummed acoustic guitars mingle with pedal steel, keyboards and French horns, creating a pastoral backdrop that is either serene or stultifying, depending on one’s passion in understated masterpieces. -Joel Francis