Sky Blue Sky

Over the years the band Wilco has managed to defy being categorized thanks to their choice of musical paths. They've zig-zagged between alt-country, contemporary folk, psychedelic, experimental, and alternative rock - at least that's what the critics have labeled their music. Ask Wilco songwriter and frontman Jeff Tweedy about these descriptors and he'll claim the band has never made anything other than rock 'n' roll.

With that in mind Sky Blue Sky represents a mellow mix of rock 'n' roll with a healthy influence of alt-country, contemporary folk and classic 70's rock. "Either Way," "Sky Blue Sky" and "Please Be Patient With Me" are songs that would have sounded great on a Gram Parson record. There's lots of introspection about personal relationships, finger-picking, whining steel guitar, brushed percussion and sweet mournful vocals. "Hate It Here" is full of rifts and drum lines that will remind you of early Wings or Bowie recordings; "Walken" opens with road-house piano reminiscent of Leon Russell or Harry Nilsson.

Besides Tweedy Wilco consist of long-time bassist John Stirrett, keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, drummer Glen Kotche and the band's newest members multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and free-jazz guitarist Nels Cline. The songs on this release are mostly new, a few have been played at live shows, but most were written collaboratively in the band's practice loft. The recording was also handled in this manner with band members working together on the songs and building consensus for the end result. Bassist Stirrett has referred to this release as "…the most civilized record Wilco has ever made."

Perhaps this explains the relaxed atmosphere of the record. If you're listening for some of the dissonance of A Ghost is Born or the harder edges of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot you won't find them here. What you will hear is beautifully constructed songs like "Impossible Germany" and a band that seems to have found a democratic formula for creating impeccably crafted rock.

Rosemary Welsch, WYEP Afternoon Mix host