Wilco Soul

I actually had to search Fish & Bicycles just now because I couldn’t believe that I’ve never written here about my favorite band: Wilco.

Sure enough, as hard as it is to believe, this will be my first post on the subject, and it’s ironic since it was inspired by news concerning a non-Wilco album in the works.

I’ve been listening to the work of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy since his days with the original alt.country band, Uncle Tupelo, and the thing that I’ve admired about him ever since Uncle Tupelo’s demise is that he is constantly evolving as an artist, striking out for new sounds on every single album, and his ability to do this is rooted in his deep familiarity with and appreciation of a wide variety of musical styles.

While Tweedy and Wilco have been most noted for their country, rock, and pop influences, back in 1995 Jeff Tweedy released a record with side project Golden Smog, which included a cover of an obscure song by obscure soul-blues singer Bobby Patterson. The song, She Don’t Have To See You, was my favorite on the album, and it was the first evidence that another of Tweedy’s influences was soul music.

It’s always a treat for a fan of a given artist when that artist records cover songs. Musicians, after all, only reveal so much of themselves in their recordings, and so the cover song offers a voyeuristic glimpse into what music they listen to and like, as if you’ve been allowed to thumb through their private record collection.

Anyway, ever since 1995, I’ve been hearing subtle hints of soul influence in Wilco’s music, but the most overt nods came 12 years later on two songs from 2007’s Sky Blue Sky album: You Are My Face and Hate It Hear.

And now, Pitchfork reports that Jeff Tweedy will be producing an album with legendary soul/gospel singer Mavis Staples.

I can see now the Staple Singers albums in Tweedy’s record collection, in the soul section, not far from his Bobby Patterson.

Hmmmm. Is that some Otis Redding in the middle?

I, for one, will be looking very forward to hearing this Tweedy-Staples collaboration.

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