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Uncle Tupelo
No Depression - Legacy Edition

Uncle Tupelo, a trio based near St. Louis, Missouri, released their first album, No Depression, in 1990. Through the 1980s, I'd found very little of interest in either the rock and roll world or in the country music coming out of out Nashville. But when I stumbled into the “insurgent country” sound of Whiskeytown, Freakwater, and the Drive-By Truckers, my musical world was changed for the better.

It was Uncle Tupelo who led the way into this new musical terrain, and No Depression was the landmark for so many of us. We fans connected using the fledgling Internet with its Listserv mailing lists and Usenet groups. No Depression was our compass point. We formed a community. We introduced each other to similar bands. We shared the joy of new recordings, mourned the inevitable demise of Uncle Tupelo, and argued over whether it was Son Volt or Wilco who better carried the mantle of the founders.

No Depression was reissued in 2003 with some additional demo material. And now there is a new reissue, the “Legacy Edition,” with even more demo material. I absolutely love No Depression, even going so far as to claim it as an essential recording that everyone should hear at least once. But as much as I'd like to, I can't find anything in this Legacy Edition to embrace.

The additional material in this new release is mostly from cassette quality recordings, and these tracks pale greatly when stacked against the original. The boys were still polishing their style and their technique, but it's the sound quality that is painful. I could stand lesser quality if there was historical value or interest, but multiple versions of “Whiskey Bottle” or “Screen Door” don't add anything to my appreciation of these great songs. Three versions of the throwaway “I Got Drunk” are four too many. “Blues Die Hard” and “Pickle River” were abandoned after the 1987 cassette demo, and rightly so; there is no need to resurrect them from a long-forgotten vault that should have stayed long-forgotten.

By all means, listen to the original No Depression. Find a vinyl copy. Find the CD with the bonus track, “John Hardy.” Listen and enjoy Uncle Tupelo for what they did 25 years ago. Listen and appreciate how wonderful that seminal record remains today. But don't bother with this newly released demo material. There just isn't any reason to spend your hard-earned cash or your precious listening time and attention on the Legacy Edition. - by Greg Harness

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