MINNEAPOLIS — Sure, Trampled by Turtles could have made a record during its COVID-forced long break from touring. In fact, the guys booked studio time in the fall of 2020 at a famously isolated facility in West Texas.
They sure are happy now that those plans fell apart.
“We’re a band that records all in the same room near each other,” singer/guitarist Dave Simonett explained. “That just wouldn’t have worked well if we were all masked up and still tense and scared about the virus.”
With a discernible amount of glee, Trampled’s frontman added, “Plus, if we’d done it then, we wouldn’t have made this record with Jeff.”
Jeff Tweedy, that is, the bandleader of Wilco. Minnesota’s best-loved Americana folk/bluegrass group recruited the singer from maybe the world’s best-loved Americana rock band to serve as producer of its new album.
Titled “Alpenglow” recently released, the 11-song collection is Trampled’s first record in four years. It will also probably go down as the group’s best-loved LP since 2012’s “Stars and Satellites,” the one that made the all-acoustic, Duluth-reared sextet stars on the national festival and outdoor venue circuit.
In songs like the cigarette-stained “Quitting Is Rough,” the contently tired “All the Good Times Are Gone” and “Burlesque Desert Window” — each laced with lyrics about settling down and appreciating what you’ve got — the band’s string-playing feels looser and more soulful (think: “Music From Big Pink”), while their Gitche Gumee-expansive vocal harmonies sound more spirited and precise.
The band members credit Tweedy for making them rethink their arrangements and getting inside their songwriting process. But they also cite the fact that they waited to record until after returning to the road in 2021 following the longest break in their 19-year run as a band.
“Honestly, we’re having more fun than we’ve ever had,” Simonett said.
Tweedy got to see that camaraderie firsthand when Wilco and Trampled co-headlined three Midwest dates in September 2021, including a breezy gig at Treasure Island Resort & Casino Amphitheater in Red Wing.
Trampled finally plays its first post-COVID concert inside the Twin Cities proper at the Armory in Minneapolis on Nov. 26 , a midtour homecoming on the fall trek behind “Alpenglow.”
In a provided statement, the Wilco frontman said, “I enjoy TBT’s musicianship and ability to stick hard inside a genre, all the while stretching that same genre. It’s like you need to infiltrate it before you can pull it apart.
“They have a brotherly thing going on, too, which is always a great feel.”
The recording sessions took place near the end of 2021 at the Loft in Chicago, where Wilco has made all of its records going back to 2001’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Simonett described the warehouse studio as being filled with “an amazing array of guitars” and “the kind of heavy vibe you’d imagine.”
“The whole thing really suited us because the room itself is just one big room,” the singer continued. “We got there, and they just had six chairs in a circle, and that was it. The place was ready to go. It was so comfortable that a lot of the times it didn’t even feel like we were recording.”
The setting was so informal, Simonett said, that Tweedy wound up getting credit for playing guitar on several tunes: “He would just come out from behind the console and start strumming along, maybe show us some ideas.”