JEFF TWEEDY Chelsea Walls Original Music By Jeff Tweedy (Rykodisc)
Jeff Tweedy's first solo recording takes the form of the soundtrack for Ethan Hawke's second film as a director, the Chelsea Hotel-based "Chelsea Walls", which, squinting at the credits on the back cover long enough reveals, stars Kris Kristofferson and Isaac Hayes amongst the more expected actorly mafia. Tweedy's musical score is strongly reminiscent of Ry Cooder's work for "Paris, Texas" subjected to a thorough alt.country makeover, rattling with dragging, ringing distortion, which is unquestionably a good thing.
A few songs crop up here too: there's a new, slightly unremarkable Wilco piece, "Promising", seemingly recorded outside of the decaying electronic reign of terror that produced their wonderful "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" album, and an offcut from the "Mermaid Avenue" sessions co-credited to an apparently inaudible Billy Bragg, the traditional "When The Roses Bloom Again". Jazz singer Jimmy Scott provides a, hmmm, individual interpretation of "Jealous Guy", backed up by a band that includes Wilco members Jay Bennett, John Stirratt and Ken Coomer, which probably isn't for everybody. Robert Sean Leonard and Steve Zahn turn in a highly competent cover of Wilco's fabulous tearjerker "The Lonely 1", which sounds as if it was recorded on a rainy day back porch, and Leonard also contributes the acoustic hymnal "Softly And Tenderly Jesus Is Calling".
You'd probably have to be a Tweedy obsessive to want this album, but anyone whose shelves groan with Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Golden Smog and "Mermaid Avenue" albums will recognise the man's genius at play here as well. Alt.country chill-out soundtrack album of the year, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Billy Bragg & Wilco