The Austin Chronicle

Phases and Stages

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, March 29, 2002, Music

Uncle Tupelo

89/93: An Anthology (Columbia/Legacy) Uncle Tupelo, a trio from rural Belleville, Ill., composed of guitarist Jay Farrar, bass player Jeff Tweedy, and drummer Mike Heidorn, wasn't the first band to merge folk and country music with rock attitude. Arguably, they weren't the best at what they did, either. But they were in the right place at the right time. It was a time when post-punkers were searching for a little more depth than the latest alter-flavor of the month. In fact, the term "alternative country" was coined to describe UT's music and that of the hordes of bands that followed in their wake. Listening to 89/93: An Anthology, it's easy to hear what the excitement was all about and why it continues. The band's roughly hewn combination of back-porch sing-alongs and boisterous, Replacements-style rock & roll still sounds remarkably fresh and potent. Of the 21 tracks here, 14 are from their four studio albums, with the only complaint being that their last, best album, Anodyne, is underrepresented, and the Doug Sahm-penned "Give Back the Key to My Heart" is missing. Otherwise, it's all gold, including two previously unreleased demos, some long-gone singles, an edgy cover of John Fogerty's "Effigy," and a live cut from the last incarnation of Uncle Tupelo that had expanded to six members. It's a fine introduction to the band for those who missed 'em the first time around, while the fanatics are sure to enjoy all the rarities and will be happy to know that the rest of the UT catalog is being re-issued in the near future as well.


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