Saturday, November 15, 2014

Song of the Day: Uncle Tupelo - Life Worth Livin' (1990)

Uncle Tupelo are maybe/probably the all-time greatest band that relatively few people have heard of, and it remains baffling to me why they don't have a much larger historical profile. They were only together for a brief time, and released four albums from '90-'93 before their two frontmen couldn't get along anymore and had to split to run their own shows. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Jay Farrar formed Son Volt, and singer/songwriter/bassist Jeff Tweedy formed Wilco. Son Volt were pretty good, and Wilco has become arguably the greatest band of the last 20 years. (And The White Stripes are arguably the only band that makes that statement arguable.) 

But considering how adored Wilco is, it's strange how comparably few of their fans know about Tweedy's former band, especially given how historically important they were. Uncle Tupelo is pretty much credited with creating the Alt. Country movement that gained steam in the mid-'90s and continues to thrive, and their first album, 1990's No Depression, even gave that musical scene the name of its first major publication. All four of Uncle Tupelo's albums are great, but their debut is the best one in my eyes, and it's still the purest example of who they were. Never before or since have Indie Rock and Country co-existed and complimented one another so seamlessly. 

"Life Worth Livin'" is, mysteriously, not even known as one of the album's highlights, having been left off of the band's only compilation album. But this is my favorite Uncle Tupelo song, and even more than that, it's probably the song most single-handedly responsible for creating my interest in country music. I won't say much about the lyrics, because they speak for themselves, but the words are heartbreaking and deceptively beautiful all at once. 

The song always makes me think of a great scene from Groundhog Day, which is one of my favorite movies. Bill Murray is drinking at a bar in a bowling alley with two townies, and he says "What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?" To which one of the townies shruggingly utters, "That sums it up for me." This song is for that guy. 

This was originally written and posted on Facebook on June 9, 2014

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