Wilco, “Blasting Fonda” from Alpha Mike Foxtrot (2014): One Track Mind

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A newly released four-disc box of rarities, meant to celebrate Wilco’s 20th anniversary, gives us a chance to finally to live in a world were everyone has heard “Blasting Fonda.”

The song, originally tucked away on the soundtrack to 1996’s Feeling Minnesota and then as a b-side on 1997’s “Outtasite (Outta Mind),” marks an important moment in the history of Wilco — as frontman Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett work in an early duo format that would become more and more the norm over the years.

It’s more than that, though. Wilco’s “Blasting Fonda” is a gorgeously shambolic moment, pushed along by a boozy, saloon-keeper’s piano until Tweedy finally settles into a ruminative lyric that plumbs the depths of 2 a.m. worry. It sounds like the olden-days lament that Tweedy references, only punctuated with these sharp moments of specificity — a hair on a pillow, a cool breeze and (as a whisper of psychedelia brushes past) a holy figurine in a mobile home. Decades later, images still leap out of the speakers.

“Blasting Fonda” is now part of Alpha Mike Foxtrot, which collects largely unheard studio and live recordings from 1994-2014. Tweedy wrote track-by-track notes; additional thoughts are included from Nels Cline and John Stirratt, as well. The box arrived earlier this month in North America, and will be released on December 1, 2014, elsewhere. Also due that day is What’s Your 20?, a two-disc set focusing on essential Wilco studio tracks. Both were produced by Cheryl Pawelski, the Grammy-nominated co-founder of Omnivore.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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