Together At Last
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Together At Last
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Together At Last is a new album by songwriter and guitarist Jeff Tweedy. It features the Wilco bandleader performing eleven of his own songs, culled from the Wilco catalog as well as from side-projects Loose Fur and Golden Smog, in a solo acoustic setting. Recorded at Tweedy’s Chicago recording studio The Loft, Together At Last showcases Tweedy’s accomplished and intricate guitar playing and his expressive, plaintive voice, and while audiences have experienced Tweedy live onstage as a solo performer for years, this is the first studio recording of its kind for the acclaimed musician.
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"Together At Last" (11 tracks; 38 min.) is a very different release from "Chelsea Walls". Here Jeff revisits primarily (9 of the 11 songs) Wilco songs in an intimate setting, just Jeff and his acoustic guitar. In this setting, the lyrics get a renewed emphasis. For me the songs that work best are when they sound quite different from the original studio version. Look no further than the reimagined version of "I Am Trying to Break your Heart" (from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot") as the prime example, but check also "Hummingbird" (from "a ghost is born") and "I'm Always in Love" (from "Summerteeth"). The two non-Wilco tracks are a radically reinvented "Laminated Cat (from the brilliant Loose Fur debut album), and "Lost Love" (not sure where that one comes from),
I've had the good fortune of seeing Jeff Tweedy in concert many, many times over the years, mostly with Wilco, but a couple of times in a solo setting as well. I'm not entirely sure as to the timing of this solo album: why now, as opposed to, say, 5 years ago? In any event, it's nice to have, although I sure wish that a few more songs had been added to this release, given its modest running time of just 38 minutes.
The first thing I noticed about this collection was the setlist. Tweedy obviously spent time looking backwards and pulling up songs that had meaning for him and his fans. The inclusion of a song from the Golden Smog project (this has long been one of my favorite things to hear) and one from Loose Fur show how deep Tweedy delved. The setlist is very balanced overall and doesn't focus on one period to the exclusion of any other.
Second, the great care and attention to the songs themselves is remarkable. Tweedy balances the inevitable reinterpretation with a reverence for the source material which makes each performance sound fresh and new while still being rooted in the (sometimes recent, sometimes more distant) past. Nothing sounds out of place, and the songs that undergo the most change (the YHF and Loose Fur material) still somehow manage to sound just right.
I wish the set overall had been a bit longer, but I can't argue with what's here. As a longtime Wilco and Jeff Tweedy fan, I am extremely happy to finally be able to hear this material on an official release.