Stripped-down memoir

Warm is Jeff Tweedy's first solo work of original material.
Warm is Jeff Tweedy's first solo work of original material.PHOTOS: FACEBOOK / WILCO, DBPM RECORDS
Warm is Jeff Tweedy's first solo work of original material.
PHOTOS: FACEBOOK / WILCO, DBPM RECORDS

Singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy delivers an elegant and deeply personal album

ALTERNATIVE COUNTRY

WARM

Jeff Tweedy

dBpm/4 stars

Best known as the frontman of alternative country stalwarts Wilco and, before that, Uncle Tupelo, American singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy comes out from the shadow of his past projects for an elegant and deeply personal album that is entirely his own.

It is his first solo work of original material. On last year's solo album, Together At Last, he did new renditions of songs by Wilco and his other side bands.

While Grammy-winning Wilco made their name with their experimental and art-pop take on Americana, Tweedy is more content to strip things down and focus more on his story here.

It is no surprise, considering that the album is also an accompanying piece to his new memoir, Let's Go (So We Can Get Back).

"I leave behind a trail of songs/From the darkest gloom to the brightest sun," he sings in a fragile and affecting voice on album opener Bombs Above, amid gently strummed acoustic guitars and delicate slide guitars.

The pace picks up on the self-referential Some Birds ("I break bricks with my heart/Only a fool would call it art"), which features 12-string guitar harmonies and a sprightly solo that sounds like Tweedy is playing right next to you.

It also contains a phrase repeated in I Know What It's Like: "In my window I have a twin/I'm always looking out/And he's always looking in", which Tweedy has said in an interview with American public radio network NPR is a reference to his "shadow self"- his dark side, if you will.

He does not shy from tackling bleak experiences such as his past addiction and his time in rehabilitation.

"Now people say/What drugs did you take/And why don't you start taking them again?/But they're not my friends," he croons on Having Been Is No Way To Be.

It is a tune with a gentle demeanour, but it takes a brief left-field turn in the bridge - reminiscent of Tweedy's more musically adventurous discography .

Don't Forget tackles an even gloomier subject ("Don't forget sometimes/We all, we all think about dying/Don't let it kill you"), while he ruminates on tough experiences and how they shape him on How Hard It Is for A Desert To Die.

The album is not all grim. He takes a step back on From Far Away, pondering how seemingly disconnected things come together when viewed from a distance ("From outer space/I am you/At distances / You're me too").

It might be his most intimate batch of songs to date, but musically, Warm also glows with the presence of his close collaborators.

Wilco's undeniable presence is there - the album was recorded in the band's Chicago studio and their drummer, Glenn Kotche, plays on it, as do Tweedy's sons, Spencer and Sammy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2018, with the headline 'Stripped-down memoir'. Print Edition | Subscribe