Wilco – In through the out door
The story of what happened to Wilco in the past couple of years isn’t always a happy tale, but it does have a happy ending. So let’s start there.
After countless delays, a split from their record company and the departure of two key members, Wilco finally, officially released its embattled new album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, on April 23. In the lag between the completion of the record in April 2001 and its release, the current lineup of the group — singer/guitarist/songwriter Jeff Tweedy, bassist John Stirratt, keyboardist/guitarist Leroy Bach, and drummer Glenn Kotche — has already recorded a new Wilco album. They also served as the backing band for R.E.M. sideman Scott McCaughey’s forthcoming Minus 5 album.
On the very day Yankee Hotel Foxtrot arrived in stores, former Wilco guitarist-keyboardist-songwriter Jay Bennett released his own record, The Palace At 4 AM, recorded with longtime pal Edward Burch. Where Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is challenging and experimental, Bennett and Burch’s assured effort is full of sweet melody, heartfelt lyrics and classic pop-rock stylings.
Former drummer Ken Coomer has regrouped at his Nashville base, where he has become an in-demand sideman and session player (he cut tracks with Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle lately) and has begun working as a producer. He’s also prepping for another album with the roots-rock semi-supergroup Swag.
All three camps claim they are happy with how things have turned out.
Tweedy says of Wilco’s present configuration: “The band that I was most comfortable with, and the people that I am most comfortable with making music, are in my band now.”
Says Bennett of his burgeoning solo career: “I am having the time of my life. I don’t know if you can tell, but I just am…this is kind of maybe what I thought my life was going to be like.”
And Coomer says he has been relishing his time away from the touring demands of Wilco. “I wondered how I would adjust to being off the road, and it is wonderful. For the first time, I feel like I have a home,” he says. “It has been sort of falling into place. I want to do it all.”
So perhaps all’s well that ends well. But that’s not the same as saying all has been well with Wilco.
This is an excerpt of the full article which appeared in The Best of No Depression: Writing About American Music, which features 25 of the finest articles from the magazines back issues, and was published in 2005 by University of Texas Press to help celebrate the magazines 10th anniversary. Due to our agreement with UT Press we are unable to include this article in our online archive.
The Best of No Depression is the only place you can find these articles other than our back issues. Visit the No Depression store to buy your copy for only $10.
The 300-page volume includes co-editor Grant Aldens award-winning 2001 feature on Billy Joe Shaver, co-editor Peter Blackstocks 1998 Artist of the Decade piece on Alejandro Escovedo, senior editor Bill Friskics-Warrens 2002 cover story on Johnny Cash, contributing editor Paul Cantins deep exploration of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Wilco; and many other high points from our print heyday.
Table of contents for The Best of No Depression:
Preface, by Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock
Los Lobos, by Geoffrey Himes
Alejandro Escovedo, by Peter Blackstock
Jon Dee Graham, by Peter Blackstock
Billy Joe Shaver, by Grant Alden
Ray Wylie Hubbard, by John T. Davis
Flatlanders, by Don McLeese
Ray Price, by David Cantwell
Johnny Gimble, by Bill C. Malone
Johnny Cash, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Rosanne Cash, by Lloyd Sachs
Lucinda Williams, by Silas House
Buddy & Julie Miller, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Kasey Chambers, by Geoffrey Himes
Loretta Lynn, by Barry Mazor
Patty Loveless, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Kieran Kane, by Peter Cooper
Paul Burch, by Jim Ridley
Hazel Dickens, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Gillian Welch, by Grant Alden
Ryan Adams, by David Menconi
Jay Farrar, by Peter Blackstock
Jayhawks, by Erik Flannigan
Wilco, by Paul Cantin
Drive-By Truckers, by Grant Alden
Iron & Wine, by William Bowers