This song came to mind when Sammy, Spencer, and I got back from a road trip this week. I first heard it on a CD I bought in Scandinavia on tour in the ’90s. I don’t think it was out in the states at the time, because I was surprised to see something with Rick Danko and Eric Andersen on it that I wasn’t at least aware of. Me being a pretty devoted fan, especially, of Rick Danko.
My devotion to Rick is obviously partly because of his role in shaping my musical evolution as a harmony-singing bass player in a band (Uncle Tupelo). But on a more personal and human note, he also happens to be the very first hero of mine to give me some direct encouragement. When we were on tour with The Band, briefly, in the early ’90s, he walked right up on stage behind me during a soundcheck to tell me that I sounded great, and also that my singing felt “desperate,” adding, “You should always sound desperate. Don’t ever lose that!”
Sadly, he was gone from this world before we ever crossed paths again. I hope I have lived up to that beautiful advice. I always wonder if he would still hear it in my voice. I still do. It’s subtle most of the time.
But what I think he meant, more than anything, is that every song is a plea. And that one should not waste their chance to be heard. It’s how we humans remind each other of things we would rather not know, sometimes. At other times, we sing to bolster each other’s resolve to understand that the world doesn’t have to be this way—that we don’t have to go along with it. It’s ok to be alone, and together in our aloneness. None of which comes across without some desperation.
Don’t despair! But do, please, stay desperate, everyone!
This Week In Wilco, Etc.
2010 / May 24: At Sentrum Scene in Oslo, Norway, Wilco performs a 29-song set. An audience member is a guest vocalist on “You and I."
2022 / May 27: Cruel Country is released, and on the same day, the band opens Solid Sound by playing the album live in its entirety. The set is livestreamed and later officially released as Roadcase #96.
1999 / May 28: On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (Episode 7.94), Leno shares that the R.E.M./Wilco world tour kicks off in June, and Wilco performs “Can’t Stand It” with a string quartet.
“Blue River” (Rick Danko and Eric Andersen cover)
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