“Wilco goes country!” Jeff Tweedy has declared. The rock band known for pioneering the alt-country genre announced a new double album that will see Wilco full-on embracing country music — or at least their version of it — for the first time.
Cruel Country, due out May 27, features 21 tracks that Wilco composed and recorded in live takes with minimal overdubs at the band’s home studio the Loft in Chicago.
“I think there’s been an assumption over the years that Wilco is some sort of country band,” Tweedy wrote in a lengthy letter about the new album, the band’s first studio LP since 2019’s Ode to Joy. “There’s a lot of evidence to support that way of thinking about our band because there have been elements of country music in everything we’ve ever done. But to be honest, we’ve never been particularly comfortable with accepting that definition of the music we make. With this album though, I’ll tell you what, Wilco is digging in and calling it country.”
Ahead of the double album’s release via their dBpm Records, Wilco have shared the first single “Falling Apart (Right Now),” with the video offering a snapshot at the album’s sessions. Tweedy likened the approach behind recording Cruel Country to that of Wilco’s 2007 gem Sky Blue Sky.
“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,” Tweedy said. “With no ‘one’ person in charge, the goal can be vague. But a certain type of faith emerges. A belief that we’re all heading toward the same destination, and we either get there together or not at all. It’s messy. Like democracy.”
Immediately following the May 27 release of Cruel Country — available to preorder now — Wilco will debut songs from the double album at their own Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, Massachusetts, from May 27 to 29.
“More than any other genre, country music, to me, a white kid from middle-class middle America, 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,” Tweedy continued. “And because it is the country I love, and because it’s country music that I love, I feel a responsibility to investigate their mirrored problematic natures. I believe it’s important to challenge our affections for things that are flawed. I feel like these defining parts of who we are demand introspection. No one should need to ask. We should feel compelled to contemplate. To ask if there are ways to fix things, if there are things that just need to be accepted. And maybe to see if we can stop trying to figure out how to separate two things that can’t be separated.”
Cruel Country Tracklist
1. I Am My Mother
2. Cruel Country
5. The Empty Condor
6. Tonightʼs 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