Various Artists – For Anyone That’s Listening: A Tribute To Uncle Tupelo
This is the kind of Uncle Tupelo fan I am: Their four records still reliably break my heart and hang the moon at the same time, and I’ve never been too proud to admit it. So it was with as much trepidation as delight that I first spun this 16-track tribute featuring mostly lesser-known fellow Midwesterners.
Delight won out from the first track, Ana Fermin & Trigger Gospel’s energetic reinvention of “Graveyard Shift”, and turned into outright thrill by Dolly Varden’s soulful closer “Steal The Crumbs” (not coincidentally, the first track from UT’s debut No Depression and the final track of their swan song Anodyne, respectively). Between are many of the band’s most familiar numbers, including “New Madrid” (Duane Jarvis & Dave Coleman), “We’ve Been Had” (the Shiners) and “Whiskey Bottle” (Sixty Acres), as well as less obvious selections such as “Fatal Wound” (Mark McKay & the Bad Souls) and “True To Life” (Meredith Ochs & the Damn Lovelys).
Peter Holsapple sings “Still Be Around” as if he wrote it himself: remorsefully, anxiously, brutally questioning. Jason Wilber treats “Black Eye” gently, empathetically, more maturely in contrast to Jeff Tweedy’s original angst-filled-teen reading. Neil Cleary gives “Looking for A Way Out” a great John Denver-via-Rufus Wainwright treatment, but Tom Roznowski nearly steals the project with his finger-snapping, beat-jazzy turn on “Screen Door”.
By and large, the participants bring to the table not just love for their influences, but also ideas to burn. There’s symmetry in that, and also some outstanding listening.