Late last month my wife and I buzzed up to Boston to catch Wilco, the long-suffering folk-rock group out of Chicago, in advance of their new album, The Whole Love (click here to listen via Spotify). Led, in a sort of disconsolate slouch, by songwriter Jeff Tweedy, Wilco was once a poster child for the desultory pop genre called indie rock. But Wilco has become something bigger: not only a big seller but more professionally packaged onstage and online, and more ambitious artistically. In its choice of instruments—lap steel to digitized loops—and its influences—the Dead, Woody Guthrie, and early punk—Wilco is verging on becoming, as I someone in my row in Boston called them, the Great American Rock and Roll band.
I bring Wilco up on this blog because Tweedy’s music is as Christ-haunted as the American landscape itself. Christianity comes up on nearly every Wilco album—in the voice of a skeptic, in words that sound like genuine praise, and in closely observed moments from the pews. “You’ll stand each Sunday / a hymnal steady in your hand,” a soldier sings to his wife in “I’ll Fight” (click here to listen via Spotify). “You’ll sing to yourself the rising falling melody / that you could never read/without the choir’s lead.
“I’ll Fight” is Tweedy’s Iraq War song from his 2009 album, Wilco, The Album (or maybe his Civil War song; the 40-something Tweedy affects the extravagantly unkempt look of a Matthew Brady battlefield portrait). The song’s soldier goes on to sing of the trade he’s made with the civilians he left behind, and the deal is as spiritual as it is civic: “If I die / I’ll die alone / Like Jesus on the cross / My faith will not be tossed / My life will not be lost / if my love comes across.” Read the rest of this entry »