3 Minute Record

"We learned more from a three minute record baby than we ever learned in school..." -from No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen

Filtering by Tag: Folk

Part of something big: How Uncle Tupelo shaped the musical landscape [Recollection]

By Robin Wheeler 

My name is nothing extra, but the truth to you I tell. I am a coal miner and I'm sure I wish you well - "Coalminers" by Uncle Tupelo

I remember the first time I heard of Uncle Tupelo. Freshman year at the University of Missouri in the autumn of 1991, sitting in my dorm room with an old friend from my tiny hometown, listening to him bitch because the skirt he was chasing was making him go to an Uncle Tupelo show.

"I hate that country shit," he snarled.

Two months earlier, I would have said the same thing. Growing up in rural west-central Missouri, country music's de rigueur, and we had both had our fill. Making a rural escape with Nirvana and Pearl Jam as the soundtrack, there was no excuse to ever hear another word sung about the working class, whiskey bottles, and coal.

Except that's what I wanted.

I blazed out of my hometown as fast as possible, only to return weekly for the first two months to spend time with my dying grandmother. Being in the new environment I'd craved for years, only to be dragged away to experience a lingering, horrific death. Unable to jump into my new life while watching an old life end.

Most days I just wanted to go home, and nothing felt more like home than country music. Through the privacy of my headphones I'd sneak listens to the local country stations in between my public blastings of the Pixies and the Replacements that led to lots of unpleasant visits from my dorm's RA.

Based solely on my friend's ire and my acute craving for country, I started keeping an ear out for Uncle Tupelo. Three guys from a small town in Illinois that seemed a hell of a lot like the town I'd left, playing not country, but country infused with flavors of the punk artists just coming onto my radar - Iggy Pop, The Clash.

These guys were me.

So I sought them out, which wasn't difficult. Columbia, Missouri is only two hours from Belleville, Illinois, so it was well in UT's touring range. They were "local" to me. So imagine my surprise when I started seeing the band in Rolling Stone.

Something big was happening. Something big, and I was a part of it. On the edge, but clinging to it. R.E.M's Peter Buck was recording with them. And just like that, I'm connected to one of the first bands that caught my attention, showed me that there was more to music than what TV and radio stations from Kansas City fed me.

Being a country kid no longer meant tacky flash and sequins. It wasn't oversized cowboy hats and slick production that didn't sound much different from pop music. This was the first time since realizing Bruce Springsteen was singing about my blue-collar, industrial people did I really feel like an artist was articulating my experience. And they did it by taking the music beloved by my dying grandmother and blending it with the music that had started speaking to me.

I can't say I remember buying March 16-20, 1992. I just know it's always been in my record collection in one form or another, along with everything recorded by everyone on the album. It's been a part of my life's fabric since it arrived. It wasn't my favorite Uncle Tupelo album at the time, since it was so country. When they were new, "Anodyne" was the album that spoke to me the most.

I do remember a different day of record-shopping. In mid-October, 1994 - a week before my 23rd birthday - I bought three albums. Wilco's A.M.,Son Volt's Trace, and the Bottle Rockets' The Brooklyn Side. All three were début albums from bands fronted by Uncle Tupelo members who'd been a part of the March 16-20, 1992 sessions. A Sunday afternoon and feeling more comfortable in my skin than I was when I first heard about "that country shit," I sat in my car, ripping the cellophane from the CDs all at once. Enveloped in the new CD smell, I flipped through the liner notes, looking for familiarity. And it was there.

This is my music. It's about me. It's about the same experiences I've had. The same fears I've known. The same place that bore me.

Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt and the Bottle Rockets have remained huge parts of my listening life for the past twenty years. In them, I can hear my own evolution as a person. I don't know if the songs mirror me or if I mirror them. I don't care.

Belleville postcard
Belleville postcard

Funny thing: in 2007 my husband and I decided to move to Belleville, Illinois. We'd been in the St. Louis area for eight years and weren't happy with our neighborhood. After a lot of research we decided Belleville offered everything we wanted - excellent schools, easy accessibility to St. Louis, affordable housing, and a sense of independence and quirkiness that suited our weird family.

It's taken five years for friends to stop accusing me of moving to Belleville because of Uncle Tupelo. It's the school, the cute 1920s brick bungalows, and the art festival. Really! The fact that the streets run with Stag Beer is an added bonus.

I would be lying, though, if I said I don't feel the impact of the history that happened in my backyard. There are Tweedys and Farrars living in my neighborhood, and people who were a part of the same music scene that produced them. We have kids in the same school, buy our milk from the same corner market and have dinner at the same restaurant while we wave to one another from our cars on America's longest Main Street.

Try walking past the fountain in Belleville's town square without singing "New Madrid" under your breath. Go on. I dare you. It can't be done.

We didn't get the house we originally wanted to buy five years ago, and it's just as well. That house is slowly slipping into one of the abandoned coal mines that litter subterranean Belleville from the days when residents would illegally dig into the black veins below the town in hopes of finding a way out of financial ruin.

All those years I'd snickered about Farrar's fixation with coal miners, ignorant to the fact that he knew what he was talking about. Every word true.

I see the relevance daily. Hear it in the stories from my Belleville friends and neighbors who were there, too. In 1992 I had no idea how many of my peers were also touched by the collision of divergent musical worlds brought forth by one little band from a little town. I thought it was just me. But now, we have a tribe. It includes our families and children, our community, and runs like a coal vein through our lives. Rich and deep, the place we mine for what's most important: who we are and where we came from.

How one album can change your life: Remembering March 16-20, 1992 by Uncle Tupelo [Recollection]

Editor's Note: 20 years ago today, the three members of Uncle Tupelo stepped into John Keane Studios in Athens, GA to begin recording their third album with producer Peter Buck, best known as the guitarist for R.E.M. Five days later they had a finished record. Over the next few days the owners of 3 Minute Record will give our thoughts on how that album changed our musical landscape. - Scott

Gimme back that year, good or bad. Gimme back something that I never knew I had. - "That Year" by Uncle Tupelo

I remember the evening vividly. A typical hot, sticky August night in St. Louis. I picked up my longtime friend Steve Kuhlman in my 1968 Chevrolet Camaro and we drove to the Granite City location (R.I.P.) of Vintage Vinyl to look for some new records. Little did I realize that one particular trip would be etched in my brain 20 years later.

In August 1992, I was a recent high school graduate of Collinsville High School just hanging out with friends and counting the days before I moved away to the University of Missouri - Columbia to begin my college education. The act of going to a record store was nothing new. I'd been doing this for years frequenting a store called the Record Company at their locations in Glen Carbon and Granite City as well as the chain stores in the mall. However, during my junior and senior years of high school I started attending shows at clubs on the Landing in St. Louis. Places like Mississippi Nights, Kennedy's and the Bernard Pub opened up a new world of possibilities to me about music. Up until this time I was content to buy records and listen to music in my room or on my Walkman. With a driver's license, a car and a little knowledge, my universe began to expand as rapidly as I was driving that V8 engine.

Now, armed with what felt like secret knowledge, I went out on the weekends to see national touring acts as well as local bands. I dug through the pages of the Riverfront Times, still owned by founder Ray Hartmann, in the constant search of new venues and new artists. Here I learned about the local music scene and started following bands like Pale Divine, Three Merry Widows and The Finn's.

While looking around the store that summer night, I stumbled upon the recently released album, March 16-20, 1992, by Belleville based band, Uncle Tupelo. Excited, I bought the new release ready to hear what it had in store. After leaving the record store that evening we headed back to my parents' house to shoot some pool on my parent's pool table. At the time, I had a new JVC dual CD/dual cassette boom box that I had received as a high school graduation present, which I left downstairs to listen to music. I removed the shrink-wrap to open up the compact disc to play. The first thing I noticed was the stark artwork; a modern twist on those early '60s records. Second, I was excited to see guitarist Peter Buck, of my favorite band R.E.M., had worked with a band as producer.  

At the time I purchased the albumI already owned the band's first two records, No Depression and Still Feel Gone, andI had seen them perform live a few times at Mississippi Nights. Early Uncle Tupelo shows were a dichotomy of power and energy mixed with slow, country balladry. They exuded a punk vibe carried over from their unique blend of the post-punk of Hüsker Dü, Minutemen and Black Flag and country music. However, as I listened to the new record, it became abundantly clear that Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidhorn had intentionally made a drastic change in course. This new batch of songs was completely different from much of their early material.

During the previous couple of years I had already begun a fascination with folk music, specifically the work of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. However, March 16-20, 1992 marked a distinct turning point in the development of my musical tastes as a listener and a fan. While Nirvana had shaken the apples off the tree in a fit of raw power, Uncle Tupelo, however, took a decidedly different course. In an anti-establishment turn, which now we realize Jay Farrar is wont to do, the band eschewed the current sound for one that had been pushed to the fringe decades before. For many fans, Uncle Tupelo's blend of country, rock, and punk served as the same type of touchstone in indie circles as Nirvana and the Seattle music scene had for mainstream rock. Yet, on March 16-20, 1992, the band focused completely on the country and folk side of their music and helped launch what began to be referred to as "Alternative Country" and eventually "No Depression" after their first album.

My first inclination that something was radically different from their other work - the album is almost entirely acoustic. Yes, they had performed acoustic country music in the past as they had included covers of the Carter Family classic "No Depression" and Leadbelly's "John Hardy." However, the songs included on the latest record were haunting, politically charged ballads that spoke to the state of the working class in the early '90s - a place that Farrar and Tweedy knew all too well from their upbringing.

The album's liner notes revealed that there were 8 original songs flanked by 7 covers. One song I recognized was the traditional song,"Moonshiner," which I knew from the Bob Dylan box set, The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 Rare and Unreleased 1961-1991 released just the year before. The other cover songs completely changed my perspective on country and folk music, for example, "The Great Atomic Power" by the Louvin Brothers and "Come All You Coalminers" by Sarah Ogan Gunning.

Furthermore, I was impressed how well the original songs crafted for the album blended perfectly with the older material. Tweedy chipped in with three outstanding originals - the bouncy upbeat folk of "Wait Up" with its heartbreaking lyrics about love going bad, the gorgeous ballad "Black Eye" and the solemn "Fatal Wound," a song with as much, if not more, power as their classic "Whiskey Bottle." It's Farrar's contributions to the record, however, "Grindstone," "Criminals," "Shaky Ground" and "Wipe The Clock," paired with his readings of the covers and traditional material that give the project its depth and authenticity.  In a future foretold, Farrar continued in his post-Tupelo career, with both Son Volt and his solo material, to follow the path set forth on this record. Whereas with Wilco, Tweedy followed a more commercial road that brought him the success, fame and indie credentials he seemed to covet.

That Fall, while at the University of Missouri, I volunteered to work at student-run radio station 88.1 KCOU. I started my training and eventually got on the air for a couple of shifts in the 2-6 a.m. slot. To this day I still have a cassette tape of one of the shows that started with playing the Uncle Tupelo original instrumental, "Sandusky," followed by Woody Guthrie's "Grand Coulee Dam." When the music exemplifies a certain classic quality the new and the old blend seamlessly together and artists become intrinsically linked across generations. For me, classic country and folk music became another genre to dig into with the same ferocity as rock, soul and rhythm and blues. All it took were a trio of musicians from a couple of towns over and just a few years older than I to give me an introduction.

The Wood Brothers coming to Off Broadway [Preview]

If you're into music like me you've heard of Medski, Martin and Wood, but never taken the opportunity to dig deeper and check out their music. Maybe you've even heard some of their music, but not given it much of a chance or known that like most musicians there's always a side project out there that allows the musicians greater freedom from the sound they've created for themselves in a group or a scene. Here's a chance to check out some great music at one of the best venues in St. Louis to see live music. On Friday, June 3 (Yes, that's right folks, tomorrow!) The Wood Brothers will play at the historic Off Broadway in the Lemp-Cherokee district.

The-Wood-Brothers
The-Wood-Brothers

The Wood Brothers is a duo consisting of actual brothers Chris and Oliver Wood. Hailing from Boulder, CO, Chris is a founding member of the Jazz trio Medski, Martin and Wood playing bass guitar and Oliver played second guitar with Tinsley Ellis before forming King Johnson. In 2005, they finally decided it was time to work on a musical project together after spending years apart. The Wood Brothers take their masterful chops blending blues, folk and rock together in a guitar/bass duo sometimes backed by other musicians to round out the sound. They will release a new album Smoke Ring Halo on August 2, 2011 on Southern Ground Records. The album's first single,  “Shoofly Pie,”  features guest star multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook from the Zac Brown Band.

The Wood Brothers - "Shoofly Pie"

The Wood Brothers - "Blue and Green" (Presented by Mason Jar Music)

The Wood Brothers - "Smoke Ring Halo"

The Wood Brothers cover the Allman Brothers classic "Midnight Rider"

The Wood Brothers - "Get Out My Life Woman"

If Off Broadway impresario Steve Pohlman was a Major League Baseball pitcher he would be bringing Nolan Ryan type heat booking supremely talented musicians into the club. If nothing else please come out to support a local club that offers great music from local and national artists nearly every night of the week.

Happy 70th Birthday Bob Dylan! Plan to attend KDHX benefit on 5/27 to celebrate

Joining the ranks as the newest septuagenarian, you probably already know by now that today marks Bob Dylan's 70th birthday. If not you're either living under a rock or don't like music that much.

Bob Dylan performing at St. Lawrence Universit...

No one American artist has influenced other musicians more than this native Minnesotan born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941. His songs have been interpreted by thousands of artists and his style mimicked by thousands more. Further, no one has dismissed the accolades and labels put upon him and his music either. Dylan will not be pigeonholed. Just when you think you've got him pegged he will say or release something so far out of the expected norm that it surprises everyone. He must get great joy out of this game he plays with the rest of us.

Nevertheless, very few artists can be relevant for 6 decades and Dylan is one of those artists. When a release happens it's an event that people are talking about and the praise typically starts flowing even if it's only a group of demos that he recorded almost 50 years ago.

Dylan's music is clearly open to interpretation and influential to a myriad of artists that his body of work puts him among the masters. A few years ago as I organized my music on iTunes I created a playlists for Bob Dylan and Beatles covers figuring that I had many more Beatles covers. What I found stunned me; it wasn't even close. I owned hundreds of Dylan covers and less than 50 covers of Beatles songs. From his early folk brethren in the Greenwich Village scene to The Byrds and countless rock 'n roll artists to musicians playing blues, punk, reggae, country, and other genres, Dylan's work attracts those looking for the pinnacle of the craft.

Dylan, however, has never been one above being influenced by the roots of American music - the blues, folk, and country of the early 20th century. He's lifted and stolen ideas here and there only to forward the craft to the next generation; a process that has happened for ages.

This Friday, Off Broadway in St. Louis is hosting a benefit for 88.1 KDHX with local musicians honoring Bob Dylan's 70th birthday. For only $10 you can support community radio and hear 12 different bands play their interpretations of Dylan's mastery. Hopefully those of you in the area will come out!

To tide you over here's a few Dylan videos for your enjoyment -

Mono Box Promo Video

Like A Rolling Stone (Mono)

Things Have Changed

Library of Congress debuts The National Jukebox

title of the race-records-catalogue of victor ...

Put away your handful of quarters, nickels and dimes. This month the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. launched a new ambitious project called The National Jukebox.

I first heard about this project earlier this month on NPR. The site is a free archive of sound recordings that documents sounds (music and speeches) recorded at the dawn of the 20th century and allows the listener to stream (but not download) each song via their computer. Still the site garnered interest from the public with over 250,000 visits already.

The Library of Congress spent the majority of 2010 digitizing over 10,000 sides (78 RPM records have one song on each side) from the Victor Talking Machine Company (now under the arm of Sony Music Entertainment) originally produced between 1900 and 1925. The website states that, "The National Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives." As a mission this ambitious project has 

The goal of the Jukebox is to present to the widest audience possible early commercial sound recordings, offering a broad range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning.

Further, this collection will not remain static and stodgy lending credibility continued. The website continues by stating, "New recordings are added to the Jukebox every month. Later this year, we will begin digitizing recordings from additional record labels, including Columbia and Okeh, along with selected master recordings from the Library of Congress Universal Music Group Collection."

First, I clicked on genre and found the Traditional/Country section and near the top was a favorite country standard of mine.

Wreck Of The Old 97 - Vernon Dalhart - 1924 http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.8696789029376122

Next used a search term "St. Louis" and found some interesting hits from an even earlier era. The first song is a classic from the 1904 World's Fair hosted in Forest Park in St. Louis performed here by Billy Murray. A strong tenor voice helped Murray become one of the most popular singers of the first quarter of the 20th century singing into as acoustic recording horn. Murray started out in vaudeville as a teenager and by 1903 he was in the New York area making studio recordings. By the mid-1920s when the electronic microphone came into use, the new sound of crooners eclipsed Murray's sound forever.  

Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie - Billy Murray - 1904 http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.8545572064060243

St. Louis Tickle - Ossman-Dudley Trio - 1906 (Instrumental) http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.4831903982451466

St. Louis Blues - Original Dixieland Jazz Band - 1921 http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.18645644567922426

That Baseball Rag - Arthur Collins - 1913 http://media.loc.gov/player/flowplayer.commercial.swf?0.4422833037025974

As an owner of both a vintage jukebox and my great-grandfather's Victrola, this project intrigues me to no end. The website allows you to make playlists to back and listen to these songs again and again; just like pulling out your old records over and over.

Before reading any articles or news reports, the first thing I thought about when I heard about this project was Joe Bussard's collection of 78 RPM records. Wouldn't it be great to have his collection as part of this rich history of recorded American music?

If you've never heard of Joe Bussard then you're in for a treat. Bussard, the self-professed "King of Record Collectors," is a record collector who started collecting 78 RPM records in the 1950s and 1960s - mostly blues, Cajun, country, folk, gospel, and jazz. He took trips into remote Mid-Atlantic towns near his Maryland home to seek out people who would sell their rare records. Presently, Bussard is an opinionated, cigar smoking old man with a record collection of 78 RPM sides that has few rivals. There is a well done documentary about Bussard called Desperate Man Blues: Discovering the Roots of American Music that gives a nice synopsis of the man and the collection.

Old Hat Records released a compilation of some of Bussard's 78 RPM sides a few years ago on Down In The Basement: Joe Bussard's Treasure Trove of Vintage 78's.

But these will remind others of the collection Harry Smith put together in the 1950s for Moe Asch's Folkways Records called the Anthology Of American Folk Music. Cited by countless musicians as a heavy influence on their work, this collection effectively re-started the entire Folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Kudos to the Library of Congress for taking on such an ambitious project. America's musical heritage is a treasure and worth preserving for future generations to hear.

Footnote: For some reason the ability to embed these songs into the post did not work correctly and I'm not sure why. If you can speak to that issue please let me know.

3 Minute Record shuffles, tweets through Friday morning

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones in the ea...

In case you missed the Friday morning 3 Minute Recordtwitter feed I let my iPod mix a Friday shuffle playlist this morning and shared it with my tweeps. Many of my favorite artists made it on to the playlist and covered the various genres of Rock 'n Roll, Folk, Americana, Punk, Alternative Rock, and Indie Rock. Remarkably in only 18 songs each of the last 6 decades of the Rock era were represented - only the 1950s got left out. If this weekend's predicted rapture does indeed come at least my ears will be happy. Hopefully it inspires you to go digging in your collection for some tunes you haven't heard in a while. Feel free to leave me some feedback on what you think. Here’s the results -

Never Really Been Gone – Tommy Keene – Isolation Party
Sympathy For The Devil – The Rolling Stones – Beggar’s Banquet
Free Until They Cut Me Down – Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days
Quit – Hey Mercedes – Everynight Fire Works
Untitled Instrumental – Television – Marquee Moon [Reissue]
Come To The River – The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
King Harvest (Must Surely Come) – The Band – S/T
Candy’s Boy – Bruce Springsteen – The Promise
Barricades and Brickwalls – Kasey Chambers – Barricades and Brickwalls
I Want Everything – Cracker – Kerosene Hat
Kiss Me On The Bus – The Replacements – Tim
Should I Stay Or Should I Go – The Clash
Man Of Constant Sorrow – Bob Dylan – No Direction Home
In The Street – Big Star - #1 Record
Small Definition – Superchunk – Cup Of Sand
I’m From New Jersey – John Gorka – Jack’s Crows
Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire – Funeral
You Won’t Have To Cry – The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man

Put The Needle On The Record...

St. Louis on the Mississippi river by night. J...

Welcome to a new music blog, 3 Minute Record! This site will be focusing on the music scene in and around St. Louis, MO.

At 3 Minute Record we enjoy all types of music, but the site is dedicated to Rock 'n Roll, Indie Rock, Americana, Folk, R & B, and Soul while dipping our toes in Pop, Country, and Bluegrass.

First, we will be documenting the bands of the local scene performing original music. Second, we will strive to review shows of both local and national artists playing in St. Louis and the Midwestern region and include a listing of those upcoming concerts. The third aspect of the site will be to offer a listing of release dates and reviews of those new albums, DVD's, and books about music. Fourth, while reporting the general music news from the industry, our goal will be to sometimes dive deeper and feature an artist or music scene that may deserve revisiting. A final element to the site will be the occasional podcast discussing music, sharing a mix, or documenting the sound of a band in a live session.

If you enjoy the content please let us know.

Cheers!

3 Minute Record Staff