's landmark opening salvo is the group's most rock-oriented album, steeped more in breakneck speed, punk crunch, and guitar dissonance than any of their subsequent efforts. Indeed, despite the presence of mandolins, fiddles, and banjos -- as well as inclusion of the title track, a faithful cover of the A.P. Carter
classic -- the trio's vaunted country leanings are less musical than thematic on No Depression
, thanks in large part to singers/songwriters Jay Farrar
and Jeff Tweedy
's acute depictions of rural, blue-collar life. Like the Replacements
-- never more obvious an influence than on this LP -- Uncle Tupelo
's songs paint grim, unrelenting portraits of aimless Midwestern existence, split between days working on the opening cut's "Factory Belt" and nights spent blurry-eyed and wasted ("Whiskey Bottle," "Before I Break"). Still, for all of the record's doleful cynicism -- virtually every cut nods toward dashed hopes, broken promises, and paralyzing fear -- there's an undeniable electricity afoot as well; by channeling the mournful clarity of country into the crackling fury of punk, No Depression
brings new life to both musical camps.