Every few years, Jeff Tweedy sets off on a solo acoustic tour to strip down some cuts from his work in Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, Golden Smog and Loose Fur. And with a discography as storied and varied as his — having pioneered the alt-country movement with his first-ever studio album (Uncle Tupelo's No Depression) before moving on to experimental rock and folk — it's interesting to hear such a breadth of music pared to its bare essentials, exposing Tweedy's raw, heartfelt songwriting and composition. It's a technique he immortalized in 2006 concert film Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest, and one he tries again on Together at Last, billed as his first-ever solo album.
But without Sunken Treasure's guest appearances and live atmosphere (not to mention a shorter, less diverse track list), Together at Last's existence is hard to justify. It's a safe collection of Tweedy's tunes that the skeletal arrangements do little to recontextualize, instead removing much of the melancholic charm that drove earlier releases — especially the idiosyncratic bombast of Wilco's experimental peak (Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born), from which most of the tracks are culled.
Not to say that these solo renditions aren't melancholy or charming, but they're not nearly as risky (and, therefore, rewarding) as the full band versions, nor are they as raw and engaging as Sunken Treasure, which includes several of the same tracks.
For Tweedy diehards, these intimate reworks may come off as a nice fireside chat with an old friend, but those less familiar with the singer are better off starting with the originals. (dBpm)