the unofficial uncle tupelo archives 

Coffee Creek Takes Busman's Holiday from Rock

Paul Hampel

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1993

Miles from the swirling disaster of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, the band Coffee Creek inundated the Cicero's basement bar in University City Friday night with two torrential sets of country music. Coffee Creek convenes several times a year as a lark for Brian Henneman, of the Bottlerockets, Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, of Uncle Tupelo, and ex-Tupelo drummer Mike Heidorn. The quartet relishes the opportunity to ditch the usual routine of recording and touring to play raw covers of honky-tonk classics and obscure gems. Henneman led the group with sparkling lead guitar work on the opener, a rave-up of Neil Young's "Are You Ready for the Country?" Not everyone in the hot little bar's crowd - which included neatly shorn fraternity brothers and their dates, old-time punks and those sporting the refined skid-row look - was ready. "I thought this was a rock band," said one. "This is country, ain't it?" Farrar turned the lead vocals over to Henneman on the stomper "Love's Gonna Live Here Again." Tweedy backed him on vocals with his customary fine whine, while Farrar strummed a flawless rhythm and Heidorn tapped a furious backbeat. Half the fun was in playing name-that-tune as Coffee Creek ripped through hard-drinking, broken-hearted laments by George Jones, Merle Haggard, Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm and Gram Parsons. By the middle of the first set, those in the audience who were not actually saying it must have been thinking: "Why don't these guys play together as a real band all the time?" The prospect is attractive. But if it were the case, the four might not have been able to laugh off the few stuttering starts and stops that peppered an otherwise tight, but essentially spontaneous performance meant to serve as a relief valve from life in "real" bands.

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