How Uncle Tupelo Headed to the Middle of the Road With ‘Still Feel Gone’
Uncle Tupelo found themselves edging off into a radio-ready glossiness on Still Feel Gone, and that clearly didn't sit well. Perhaps in keeping, the album – which arrived on Sept. 17, 1991 – ended up sounding pretty middle of the road, too.
Certainly, in light of what came before, on their debut, No Depression, and immediately after, Still Feel Gone is Uncle Tupelo's least-country album. Instead, the core group of Jay Farrar, Mike Heidorn and Jeff Tweedy took saddle-punk journeys through rock influences like the Replacements (Gun"), the Minutemen ("D. Boon") and Crazy Horse ("Looking For a Way Out"). Along the way, Uncle Tupelo even presaged grunge on "If That's Alright." Unfortunately, the production team of Paul Q. Kolderie and Sean Slade – just before they were jettisoned – smoothed out too many of the edges, despite a compact 17-day recording schedule at the Long View Farm in rural Massachusetts.
In retrospect, it's probably no surprise then that Uncle Tupelo raced in the other direction for the stripped-down, folky follow-up, simply titled March 16–20, 1992. "I think after our last album we were fed up with this whole rock record thing," Tweedy told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1992. "It just takes so long. I don't know what it was, but there was something we didn't like about the way Still Feel Gone was recorded."
Since the early days in Belleville, Ill., when they made two lists of words then chose one from column A and another from column B to come up with the band's name, Uncle Tupelo stuck to their individual vision. That vision was never as one-sided as Still Feel Gone and then March 16–20, 1992 would indicate, but more of a blend of two things.
"I mean, we liked punk rock as much as a lot of people at that time, but I don't know, there was never really a scene to be part of," Tweedy told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1994. "And we grew up around a certain amount of country music with, like, our parents and, you know, family gatherings and things like that."
Their small-town experience bled into hard-luck songs like "Looking For a Way Out," even if Still Feel Gone's production made them a bit too sleek. "It seems like if you go into bars around Belleville, you pretty much see that type of guy. It's all over this town," Tweedy told the Post-Dispatch. "But since we've gotten out on the road, we've discovered there's not a geographical solution. There's destructive forces everywhere."
And so they raged in the way punk rockers once did. "Well, in their purest forms, the original inspiration isn't that much different," Tweedy told the Post-Gazette. "The desire to communicate in a really direct way and eliminate a lot of bull in the process and not make it fancy."
Unfortunately, those destructive forces surrounded Uncle Tupelo, too. Heidorn announced he was leaving before March 16–20, 1992, breaking up the trio's delicate chemistry. By 1993, they'd signed with a major and released Anodyne, but tensions between Farrar and Tweedy led to a split after a pair of support tours.
What came next for Tweedy was already hinted at on Still Feel Gone, courtesy of the Wilco-ish "If That's Alright." Farrar went on to found Son Volt with Heidorn.
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