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Wilco at Meadow Brook, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Wilco has been prolific of late.

The group, which formed during 1994 after the demise of Uncle Tupelo, released its most recent two albums, 2015’s “Star Wars” and last year’s “Schmilco,” just 14 months apart -- an even quicker turnaround than Wilco’s first two albums, which came out in 1995-96. Both of the recent albums onto many Best Albums of their respective years lists and also finds the sextet playing with a kind of concise brevity.

Bassist John Stirratt, who was on board when frontman Jeff Tweedy founded Wilco, takes stock of what’s going on with the group right now...

• Stirratt, 49, says Wilco has been the beneficiary of a “creative burst” Tweedy had after his wife battled cancer. “Not that Jeff’s not creative all the time, but I think he sort of ensconced himself in The Loft (Tweedy’s home writing and recording studio) and sort of got started fleshing out demos probably moreso than he ever had before,” Stirratt says by phone from his home in Maine. “That was the main change; He did a lot of recording and put down a lot of parts on the demos which we would retroactively recreate. That gave the material a slightly different sound.”

• Stirratt adds that much of the material on the two albums was written at the same time and were naturally divided between the titles. “Very often what happens when we record a lot of material at once, it sort of has separate threads that feel like two separate records,” Stirratt explains. “That was, I think, the case with this stuff.”

• Tweedy’s approach also factored in to the brevity of the songs on the albums, most of which weigh in under four minutes. “One part of the process was him really controlling the arrangements,” Stirratt notes. “I really kind of love those arrangements, how sort of simple and direct they are. Very often it’s hard to sit down with six guys in a room and hash out arrangements for songs; I think this might have been away for him to kind of really move the process forward. I think that’s what he felt the songs needed at that point, that sort of control.”

• Wilco hasn’t completely exhausted Tweedy’s stash of material on “Star Wars” and “Schmilco” -- but it’s close. “Between the two records I think there’s maybe four things that didn’t make it that were pretty fleshed out,” Stirratt says, “but generally not as many as there would normally be for a single release, and so there’s not a lot of extra tracks from those sessions. But knowing Jeff there may be a lot more material around now.”

• This year also marks the 15th anniversary of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” Wilco’s critically acclaimed fourth album that took on legendary status when the group’s record company initially refused to release it, spawning a documentary film and a book about the project. “Looking back, there was this long year and a half period of king of joyous work and also really hard work. like day-in and day-out in the studio, carving out multiple versions of almost every song on the record and quite a few outtakes,” Stirratt records. “And then how the record was received, and the film, really extend the life of the record and created a sort of mythology around it. I’m proud of what the record became to people, but looking back it had its cost.”

If You Go:

• Wilco and Kacy & Clayton

• 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 7.

• Meadow Brook Amphitheatre on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills.

• Tickets are $39.50-$75.

• Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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