The Cosmic American

Digging Deep: Three Uncle Tupelo album cuts

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Uncle Tupelo led a revolution of sorts.


The band, fronted by Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, brought the Americana genre back into prominence, at least critically and among their rabid fanbase. 


The genre Uncle Tupelo helped create, Alternative Country, is even sometimes called No Depression, the name of their debut album.


After the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, founders Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy had big success with Son Volt and Wilco respectively. Both bands are still active, and although they’re still releasing quality music, their commercial, critical, and artistic heyday was from 1992-2002.


While they certainly had a big impact, there are only four Uncle Tupelo albums, No Depression (1990), Still Feel Gone (1991), March 16-20 1992 (1992), and Anodyne (1993).


There are many standout tracks on those albums, and if you’re looking for a good primer, check out Uncle Tupelo 89/93: An Anthology (2002). Some popular Uncle Tupelo songs include “Still Be Around,” “Sandusky,” “Chickamauga,” and “The Long Cut,” which they once performed on Conan O’Brien. 


Below are three deep cuts that show Uncle Tupelo’s genius and versatility.



From the 1990 LP No Depression


“Cow punk” was one of the many names for Uncle Tueplo’s music. Their combination of hard country and punk is displayed in all its glory on Jeff Tweedy’s “Train.” 


The hard-hitting track effortlessly oscillates from loping alternative rock to an almost “getaway music” feeling hillbilly vibe. 


The youthful energy of both Farrar and Tweedy, who would soon become a bit too serious, shines through.


Life Worth Livin’

From the 1990 LP No Depression

Early in their career, Uncle Tupelo specialized in two things: blistering punk rock and plaintive folk. “Life Worth Living” falls into the latter category. 


Farrar’s first attempt at a statement song (“This song is sung for anyone that’s listening/this song is for the broken spirited man”), it shows that he could write meaningful, universal songs very early in his career. 


Tweedy’s harmonies and the combination of mandolin and distorted guitars are highlights.


Steal the Crumbs

From the 1993 LP Anodyne

Anodyne, Uncle Tupelo’s final album, combined the rock of their early material with the more mature folk of their all-acoustic third album March 16. The results were easily the bands best album. 


Many of the songs touch on the bands impending breakup, but none more explicitly than “Steal the Crumbs.” Its title comes from one of its most biting lines, “you’ve schemed more than you have/borrowed more than you know/better to steal the crumbs/makes it easier to go,” but its chorus puts it most simply: “no more/no more will I see you/no more will I see you.”

Erik Ritland is a songwriter and journalist from Nashville, Tennessee. He's released 13 records and EPs, most recently 2021's innovative movie album Old Dog Almost Gone. His journalism has been featured on Something Else! Reviews, Music in Minnesota, and more, and his articles have been shared by members of bands as diverse as KISS, the Monkees, Son Volt, and Low Cut Connie.