March 16–20, 1992
March 16–20, 1992 is the third studio album by alternative country band Uncle Tupelo, released on August 3, 1992. The title refers to the five-day span during which the album was recorded. An almost entirely acoustic recording, the album features original songs and covers of traditional folk songs in near equal number, and was produced by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.
Along with the rest of the Uncle Tupelo back catalog, this album was re-released in 2003.
In 1990, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck attended an Uncle Tupelo concert at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. Buck was particularly impressed with the band's rendition of the Louvin Brothers' "Great Atomic Power", and contacted the band after the show. Uncle Tupelo singers Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy exchanged their interests in bluegrass music with Buck, and decided to collaborate on an acoustic music project in the future.
This should insulate us from that industry bullshit, people looking for the next Nirvana. I don't think anybody is the next Nirvana, certainly not us. People always talk about the next Beatles, the next Elvis. You can't predict that stuff.
Uncle Tupelo's frustrations with their record label Rockville Records grew when the label refused to pay the band's royalties for the sales of their first two albums. This resulted in a "nothing-to-lose context" for the recording of a third album. In what was a sharp contrast to the popular music styles at the time, Uncle Tupelo decided to record an album of folk songs.
Before the band began recording, drummer Mike Heidorn announced that he intended to leave the band for personal reasons. However, Heidorn wanted to work with Peter Buck, so he agreed to postpone his departure until after the March 16–20, 1992 recording sessions.
The band stayed at Peter Buck's house while in Athens, Georgia to record the album. Buck offered to host the band for free, so that the US$13,500 budget allotted by Rockville could be spent exclusively to pay the fees of the recording studio and audio engineers David Barbe and John Keane. Buck encouraged the band to arrange a certain amount of material each night to keep the band on pace. Guitarist Brian Henneman also contributed with his well-honed guitar skills and learned how to play mandolin—the same one that Buck used in R.E.M.'s hit "Losing My Religion"—and bouzouki for the album. The five-day span that the band spent in the recording studio was ultimately used as the title of the album.
The album's content reflected folk themes juxtaposed with new material from Tweedy and Farrar. Several of the songs have Christian themes but were placed on the album to reflect the "madness and fear that would drive men to wish for such redemption". Jeff Tweedy's lyrics were strongly influenced by Nick Drake's 1972 album Pink Moon. Farrar's "Criminals" paraphrases a George H. W. Bush campaign speech and was considered by music journalist Greg Kot to be one of the band's "angriest songs". Farrar's rendition of Sarah Ogan's "Come All You Coal Miners" (the title was shortened to "Coalminers" and the song listed as "traditional" on the album) lamented the harsh working conditions in the coal mining industry, but the choice was received poorly by some of the band's closest peers; according to singer Nick Sakes of Dazzling Killmen:
We could occasionally imitate Jay's singing and insert our own words: 'It gets real hot working down at my mom's bookstore.' It was a little too much to hear these songs about coal miners coming from regular dudes that worked in record stores and bought SST Records and went to Black Flag shows.
Three songs, the gospel tune "Warfare", the hymn "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" and the ballad "I Wish My Baby Was Born" were taken from High Atmosphere, a compilation of songs recorded by John Cohen in Virginia and North Carolina. Along with Ogan's version of "Coalminers", the murder ballad "Lilli Schull" had previously been released on Oh My Little Darling, a compilation of Southeastern folk song types released on New World Records.
"Sandusky" is probably the track that I'm most proud of. It's an instrumental, it was a real collaboration and it just kind of came out of us in the studio, real improvised natural music, very simple. I think it's beautiful. I also don't feel I was that much a part of it, because it just happened, and maybe that makes it easier to listen to it. That's the one that sticks out in my mind the most.
Release and reception
March 16–20, 1992 sold more copies than their first two albums, No Depression and Still Feel Gone, combined. Uncle Tupelo embarked on a tour of small clubs to promote the album. However, the band resisted performing material from March, since many of the venues attracted a punk rock audience; Tweedy thought "it would have been suicide" if Uncle Tupelo performed acoustic songs.
The album generated mostly positive reviews. Jason Ankeny of AllMusic called the album "a brilliant resurrection of a bygone era of American folk artistry". Bill Wyman of Entertainment Weekly remarked that it was "a moving and sincere New Depression manifesto".
March was re-issued in 2003 through Legacy Records. The re-release contained five bonus tracks: acoustic demos of "Grindstone" and The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog", a live version of "Moonshiner", the previously unreleased "Take My Word", and a version of the theme song from The Waltons. Reviews for the re-issue were also mostly positive. Pitchfork writer William Bowers called March Uncle Tupelo's best album "by far", claiming "The acoustic guitar has rarely sounded better than it does here." However, Bowers also criticized the addition of the bonus tracks.
- "Grindstone" (Farrar) – 3:16
- "Coalminers" (Traditional) – 2:33
- "Wait Up" (Tweedy) – 2:09
- "Criminals" (Farrar) – 2:20
- "Shaky Ground" (Farrar) – 2:49
- "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" (Traditional) – 1:53
- "Black Eye" (Tweedy) – 2:19
- "Moonshiner" (Traditional) – 4:23
- "I Wish My Baby Was Born" (Traditional) – 1:39
- "Atomic Power" (Louvin, Louvin, Bain) – 1:51
- "Lilli Schull" (Traditional) – 5:15
- "Warfare" (Traditional) – 3:43
- "Fatal Wound" (Tweedy) – 4:09
- "Sandusky" (Farrar, Tweedy) – 3:43
- "Wipe The Clock" (Farrar) – 2:36
- 2003 CD reissue bonus tracks
- "Take My Word" (Farrar, Tweedy, Heidorn) – 2:03
- "Grindstone (1991 Acoustic Demo)" (Farrar) – 3:55
- "Atomic Power (1991 Acoustic Demo)" (Louvin, Louvin, Bain) – 1:35
- "I Wanna Be Your Dog (1991 Acoustic Demo)" (Osterberg, Alexander, Asheton, Asheton) – 3:50
- "Moonshiner (Live 1/24/93)" (Farrar, Tweedy) – 5:05
- "The Walton's (Theme)" (Goldsmith) – 1:13 [Hidden Track]
- Tracks 17–19 and 21 previously unreleased.
- Jay Farrar – bass guitar, guitar, 12 string guitar, harmonica, vocals
- Jeff Tweedy – bass guitar, guitar, 12 string guitar, vocals
- Mike Heidorn – drums, cymbals, tambourine
- Brian Henneman – banjo, bouzouki, guitar, mandolin, slide guitar
- John Keane – banjo, bass guitar, guitar, pedal steel guitar, steel guitar, engineering, mixing
- Peter Buck – producer, feedback
- David Barbe – bass guitar, engineering
- Andy Carlson – violin
- Billy Holmes – accordion
- Kot 2004, p. 61
- Durchholz, Daniel (August 16, 1992). "Unplugging Uncle Tupelo New, Acoustic Album Stresses Songwriting More Than Sound". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- Kot 2004, p. 63
- Kot 2004, pp. 68–69
- "Allmusic: songs Composed by Sarah Ogan Gunning". Last accessed January 11, 2008.
- Kot 2004, p. 64–65
- Marshall, Alli. "The air up there: An old-time-music classic turns 40". Last accessed January 13, 2008
- ""Oh My Little Darling: Folk Song Types" (Album Details)". Last accessed January 13, 2008
- DeCurtis, Anthony (2005). In Other Words: Artists Talk About Life and Work. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-634-06655-2.
- Ankeny, Jason. "March 16-20, 1992 - Uncle Tupelo". Allmusic.
- Album reviews at CD Universe
- Chicago Tribune review
- CMJ review[dead link]
- Wyman, Bill (January 8, 2008). "March 16–20, 1992 Review". Entertainment Weekly. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- Bowers, William (April 25, 2003). "Uncle Tupelo: 'No Depression', 'Still Feel Gone' and 'March 16–20, 1992'". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on March 8, 2008. Retrieved June 14, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Rolling Stone review
- Eichenberger, Bill (March 1, 1994). "Life's All Right; Uncle Tupelo Kicks Back, Adds Acoustic Touch and Sings Great Songs". Columbus Dispatch. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: