Wilco announce mega 21-track album, Cruel Country, share snappy lead single, Falling Apart (Right Now)

Wilco performing live
(Image credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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”.

Wilco Cruel Country album cover

(Image credit: Press)

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.

  1. I Am My Mother
  2. Cruel Country
  3. Hints
  4. Ambulance
  5. The Empty Condor
  6. Tonight’s The Day
  7. All Across The World
  8. Darkness Is Cheap
  9. Bird Without A Tail / Base Of My Skull
  10. Tired Of Taking It Out On You
  11. The Universe
  12. Many Worlds
  13. Hearts Hard To Find
  14. Falling Apart (Right Now)
  15. Please Be Wrong
  16. Story To Tell
  17. A Lifetime To Find
  18. Country Song Upside-down
  19. Mystery Binds
  20. Sad Kind Of Way
  21. The Plains
  • Cruel Country is available to preorder now ahead of its release on May 28.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.