State of Sound

During the mid-20th century, it was common to hear Country and Western Music on the radio. It was a poetic soundtrack to the rugged American migration, whether it be to northern industrial cities or west along Route 66. By the 1980s, more Country radio stations fell into the hands of corporate ownership and focus groups. Something was lost. A new generation of adventurous Country singers had limited options.

Americana was born.

Americana music is identified with a progressive country sound that incorporates Rock, Folk, and Bluegrass. But it stretches into a pastiche of American roots music that also includes Gospel, Blues, lost Honky-Tonk, and Rhythm and Blues Music. The movement has become so popular that an  Americana Music Festival & Conference is held annually in Nashville, Tenn.

Since Americana became a marketable entity, its relationship with the contemporary sound of Country Music is compelling and something for you, the reader, to consider. Has Americana extracted some of the gritty energy out of Country Music or did Americana help move Country Music into its Rock and Pop sound that is so popular today?

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Biography Transcript


Chicago based Wilco was formed in 1994 after two high school friends from Bellville IL decided to dissolve their alternative country band Uncle Tupelo and go their separate ways. Fronted by Jeff Tweedy, Wilco consisted of most of the former Uncle Tupelo members and started out continuing with a similar country rock vibe much like their previous band.

It was their second album release that started their journey into a more free-wheeling creative power pop sound encouraged by their newest and fifth member Jay Bennett. The band saw frequent lineup changes and record label disputes in their first decade, but the lineup remained mostly unchanged after that.

The band celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014 with the release of a four-disc set of obscure and unreleased material. With a dedicated fan base Jeff Tweedy and the other members of Wilco continue to not only tour and release studio albums, but focus on a variety of other projects. 

Artists of the Sound

Robbie Fulks
Alison Krauss


Wilco Frontman Jeff Tweedy’s Guitar

This Fender Telecaster guitar is owned by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.  He has altered and updated it over the years as he’s used it for songwriting and performance. The Grammy-Award winning ensemble came together in Chicago in 1994 and remains hugely relevant and popular.

Courtesy of Jeff Tweedy

Sundowners Tribute Concert Poster Featuring Waco Brothers, 1994

Original “Hatch Show Print” designed by Jon Langford for a special tribute performance in honor of The Sundowners. The artists featured included John Rice, Moonshine Willy, and the Waco Bros. at Bub City in Chicago.

Courtesy of Jon Langford

The Sundowners Limited Edition Print on Wood

Designed and created by Jon Langford, this print celebrates the legacy of The Sundowners and their status as stalwarts of traditional country music. The Sundowners learned 15,000 songs during their 30 years in downtown Chicago and played 7,000 songs annually.

Courtesy of Jon Langford

The First Farm Aid Long-Sleeve Shirt

Event Organizer Mike DuBois wore this staff shirt at the first ever Farm Aid Concert at the University of Illinois's Memorial Stadium, on September 22, 1985. Performers included Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. The event drew 80,000 people and raise $9 million for U.S. family farms.

Courtesy of Mike DuBois

The Mekons Concert Poster, 2007

This letterpress print from famed Nashville “Hatch Show Print” shop was designed by Jon Langford, an accomplished visual artist as well as musician. It is a tour poster for The Mekons’s 30th anniversary tour and record, Natural, released on Chicago’s Quarterstick Records.

Courtesy of Jon Langford

The Mekons’s Handwritten Lyrics for “After the Rain”

These are Jon Langford’s handwritten lyrics for the song “After the Rain,” which appeared on The Mekons’s 2019 Bloodshot Records album Deserted. The critically-acclaimed Mekons came together in the mid-1970s UK as a punk band, but migrated to Chicago in the 1980s and began playing country-infused music.

Courtesy of Jon Langford

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