Wilco have announced their new album Cruel Country – a mammoth 21-track offering that will arrive May 27 via dBpm Record.
To usher in the news, the band – which comprises guitar titans Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline, drummer Glenn Kotche, pianist Mikael Jorgensen, bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone – have also shared the effort’s spanky lead single, Falling Apart (Right Now).
If the presence of “Country” in the album name wasn’t a strong enough hint of things to come, Falling Apart (Right Now) explicitly signposts the country-leaning sonic direction Wilco will be taking for their new album.
Right from the off, it’s littered with twangy electric guitars and see-sawing six-strings, with Pat Sansone executing a series of snappy rhythmic licks and phaser-tinged leads.
Suitably smooth country-styled bends are in abundance, too, with Falling Apart (Right Now) also treating listeners to a full-throttle, rockabilly-esque outro passage that lets the lead guitar loose for an extended solo passage.
Indeed, according to Tweedy, the distinct country-sounding nature of the single and the album itself was a deliberate creative decision, with the guitarist saying Cruel Country will see the band fully “embrace” the country tag.
“There have been elements of country music in everything we’ve ever done,” he commented. “We’ve never been particularly comfortable with accepting that definition, the idea that I was making country music.
“But now,” Tweedy continued, “having been around the block a few times, we’re finding it exhilarating to free ourselves within the form, and embrace the simple limitation of calling the music we’re making country.”
Conceptually, Cruel Country will be a loose “narrative on the history of the United States”, and will adopt a country direction owing to Tweedy’s belief that “country music… has always been the ideal place to comment on what most troubles my mind – which for more than a little while now has been the country where I was born, these United States”.
Of their decision to commit to a fully fledged country album – and how this informed the message of the record – Tweedy also noted, “Country music is simply designed to aim squarely at the low-hanging fruit of the truth.
“If someone can sing it, and it’s given a voice… well, then it becomes very hard not to see. We’re looking at it. It’s a cruel country, and it’s also beautiful. Love it or leave it. Or if you can’t love it, maybe you’ve already left.”
Notably, the album itself was put together almost entirely through live takes “with just a few overdubs”. The bulk of it was recorded while all six members of Wilco were together at The Loft in Chicago.
As Tweedy recalls, “It’s a style of recording that forces a band to surrender control and learn to trust each other, along with each others’ imperfections, musical and otherwise. But when it’s working the way it’s supposed to, it feels like gathering around some wild collective instrument, one that requires six sets of hands to play.”
Accompanying the album announcement is the news that Wilco will perform Cruel Country in its entirety at this year’s Solid Sound Festival, which takes place the same weekend the album drops.
The full Cruel Country track list can be found below.
- I Am My Mother
- Cruel Country
- The Empty Condor
- Tonight’s The Day
- All Across The World
- Darkness Is Cheap
- Bird Without A Tail / Base Of My Skull
- Tired Of Taking It Out On You
- The Universe
- Many Worlds
- Hearts Hard To Find
- Falling Apart (Right Now)
- Please Be Wrong
- Story To Tell
- A Lifetime To Find
- Country Song Upside-down
- Mystery Binds
- Sad Kind Of Way
- The Plains
- Cruel Country (opens in new tab) is available to preorder now ahead of its release on May 28.