Take your beer to Whiskeytown

WhiskeybeerJust in time for the holidays, here’s another super-cool Whiskeytown token that might be even rarer than the old Strangers Almanac whiskey bottlesWhiskeytown Beer, the entire 120-bottle run of which might already be sold out by the time you read this. It’s the work of Chapel Hill’s Starpoint Brewery, brewed by Tim Harper and Chris Baker. And if the name Tim Harper rings a bell, it should.

Long before he ever started brewing beer, Tim was an old studio hand in North Carolina for a couple of decades. Whiskeytown figures prominently on his resume. Tim engineered and Chris Stamey produced the 1996 “Baseball Park Sessions”  that got Whiskeytown its deal with Outpost Records, and those two also oversaw the remix of Whiskeytown’s Faithless Street album that was reissued in 1998.

The road to Whiskeytown Beer started a few months back when Baker come up with a beer recipe involving whiskey, wood, chocolate and coffee, and enlisted Harper to brew it at at his brewery. First came the beer, then came the name.

“Nobody could come up with one,” said Tim. “I’d already started naming beers for bands I’ve worked with over the years, like a ’74-’75 Oktoberfest for the Connells. Sooner or later, I’ll do a Let’s Active beer. Stamey-Holsapple, I don’t know how I’ll work that out. But anyway, ‘Whiskeytown’ came to me in a flash one night for this one because of the whiskey barrels. We used Jack Daniels barrels to brew it.”

Before printing up the label, Tim got approval from multiple sources in Whiskeytown’s orbit, including the photographer who took the picture of Ryan (also seen on Whiskeytown’s Wikipedia entry), Caitlin Cary, Skillet Gilmore, lawyer Josh Grier — and yes, Ryan himself.

“What Ryan said was, ‘Tim, that sounds awesome,'” Tim said with a laugh. “And we found the photographer, got his approval, too. Caitlin and Skillet and Josh, even though Josh informed me that Whiskeytown did not have a trademark for food and beverage. So I didn’t even have to ask him, but I thought it’d be rude if I didn’t. Anyway, I asked everybody and they all said yes.”

Once he was done brewing, Tim bottled 10 cases to sell and put the rest into draft kegs. Those 120 bottles are going fast, but fear not: More is on the way.

“I’m working on a new batch,” Tim says. “It should be available in a couple of months, late February or early March.”

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For the troops

BrittBookJust in case you were wondering how long it takes a piece of mail to reach our troops in Afghanistan, the delivery time seems to be 10 days. That’s how long it took for a copy of “Losering” to get to Brittany Caruso; I sent one her way after she posted a video of a pretty great lip-sync version of “Like Yesterday,” and I’m both surprised and delighted that it reached her in time for Christmas.

Season’s greetings to everyone —  near and far, whether over here or over there. Be careful out there, and be good to each other. It’s about all we’ve got left, y’all.

BrittSigned

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Different strokes: “Gimme Something Good,” indeed

voxlogoOn the one hand, I’m still not too fond of Ryan Adamsso I’m kind of with the writer of this “11 great songs of 2014 that were buried on terrible albums” listicle about the overall quality of that album. On the other hand, however, “Gimme Something Good” is not what I would have picked as the redeeming track on Ryan Adams, because I’m even less fond of that song than the rest of the album.

“Still, this one is a stunner.” Um…no. No, it is not.

But heck, Grammy seems to like both, so what do either of us know?


 

VoxGSG

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Helpful holiday shopping suggestions

DRAamazonspecialSo a fair quantity of you nice folks out there have taken advantage of my $12 “Losering” holiday special (which is still available!), and for that I thank you. If you’re more inclined to do your shopping on Amazon, they’ve currently (on Friday, Dec. 12, at least) got a deal that’s almost as good as my holiday-special rate — 25 percent off the hard-copy price on any book. That takes their usual $16.55 price on “Losering” down to about $12.41, which is even less than the $13.37 price of buying it directly from the publisher. As noted in the “Special Offers and Product Promotions” part at the bottom of this illustration on the right, the promo code to use is BOOKDEAL25.

So check it out. And while you’re at it, it would also be worth using that discount to pick up this book right here. Meantime, I hope everyone out there is having a wonderful Christmas time this year.

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Like Yesterday: Good morning, Afghanistan

This is the time of year when homesickness might start feeling particularly acute, especially for people on duty overseas. So it is that this fun little video based on Ryan Adams’ Cardinology song “Like Yesterday” turned up on the Ryan Adams Superfan page Wednesday morning. The accompanying note thanked Ryan “for making deployments a little bit more bearable” with his music:

I’m currently on my 2nd tour in Afghanistan and your music still helps me to “feel”…This was a goofy video I made from my first tour..I would request you to play a free show here, but I rather you be safe and continue to make amazing music for us! I cannot wait to see you play live someday when I return to the states.

-Staying Weird.

..One of your many fans,

-Britt

It’s the sweetest video tribute to Ryan I’ve seen since the “Wish You Were Here” travelogue from back in January. In this one, the gal with the broom is Brittany Caruso, an Air Force Sergeant currently stationed in Afghanistan. I got in touch to ask a little about herself, and here’s what she wrote back:

BCaruso

Brittany Caruso, reporting from Afghanistan.

I’m 25 years old and I’m originally from Napa California. I joined the military when I was 17 and I’ve been exploring and learning about life since then..I’ve been on 3 deployments and am currently serving my second tour in Bagram, Afghanisfan..My home station is Eglin AFB, Flordia..Music is my outlet, and mantra..When I’m not listening to music I am playing it- I’ve been playing drums for a little over 8 years now..Ryan Adams music has greatly inspired after the first album I bought years ago – “Easy Tiger” ..the songs “Rip Off” and “Two” have accompanied through some very challenging times and milestones of my life..With saying that, I would have to say “Easy Tiger” is my favorite album and a footprint of my growth in adulthood.

Ryan really does have some great, great fans out there.

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“And her weapon of choice is a red-patterned dress…”

At the time he was making his first solo album Heartbreaker in 2000, Ryan Adams was still fully in thrall to Amy Lombardi — who he once told me was “my Anita Pallenberg, the coolest and most beautiful woman I’ve ever met” (a quote that’s in chapter eight of “Losering”). Lombardi was the muse behind many of Ryan’s best songs back then, and Easter eggs about them aren’t too hard to find out there.

For example, there’s this photo Lombardi posted a while back to her instagram account, in which she’s wearing a dress that figures prominently into the lyrics of the Heartbreaker song “Don’t Ask for the Water.” Much as I’d like to post that picture here, I shouldn’t. So take a listen to the song below while you cruise over to take a look here.


 

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Stories of the departed: Ian McLagan

KimIanThe past few days, social media has been awash in tributes to the late great  Ian McLagan, the legendary Small Faces keyboardist, who died on Wednesday of complications from a stroke at age 69. Mac was a wonderful all-around chap, dynamite musician and one of the funniest raconteurs of all time (for proof, just check his hilarious and no-holds-barred 2000 memoir “All The Rage: A Riotous Romp Through Rock & Roll History”). I got to interview Mac a few times over the years, including one especially memorable 2009 chat that involved equal amounts of tears and laughter once we got to talking about all the songs he’d written about his late wife Kim.

Pretty much everyone in the roots-rock world who’s played the club circuit over the past few decades has a McLagan anecdote or two, including various members of Whiskeytown. The one from Ryan Adams, which you can listen to here, dates back to when Ryan was bottoming out while making his Love Is Hell album, on which Mac played; and it’s funny, but pretty much a standard excessive-drinking tale. Ryan’s old bandmate Skillet Gilmore has a better story, from his post-Whiskeytown days in Patty Hurst Shifter — in part because he can boast of having been given a nickname by Mac.

Dude, I’m jealous.

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Ryan Adams picks up more Grammy glory

Grammy57Grammy Award nominations are being announced today, rolled out a few at a time on Twitter this morning before the full list is posted at 2 p.m. Eastern Time — and our man Ryan Adams is already up for two. Ryan Adams has been nominated for Best Rock album, while “Gimme Something Good” has been nominated for Best Rock Song.

This marks Ryan’s first multi-nomination year since 2002, when he picked up two nods for 2001’s Gold (Rock Album and Male Rock Vocal) and a third for his contribution to that year’s Hank Williams tribute album Timeless, “Lovesick Blues” (Male Country Vocal). He was also nominated for his 2003 cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” in the category of Solo Rock Vocal Performance; and producer Glyn Johns also picked up a nomination for Ryan’s 2011 Ashes & Fire album, as Best Engineered Non-Classical Album.

But for all that, Ryan has yet to win a Grammy and I’d say he’s not likely to win this go-round, either, given who he’s up against: Black Keys, Jack White, Beck and Paramore for song; and U2, Tom Petty, Black Keys and Beck for album. Black Keys look like early odds-on favorites in both categories.

Ryan Adams might well pick up another nod or two, so I’ll update as events warrant. The Grammys will be presented on Feb. 8.

UPDATE (2 p.m.): The complete nominations list is out and “Gimme Something Good” is also up for Best Rock Performance; which brings him to three for this year. But given that he’s up against a lot of the same acts — Beck, Black Keys and Jack White again, as well as Arctic Monkeys — I’m afraid he’s just as much of a longshot to win this one, too. Based on what he just posted, Ryan seems to agree:

DRAU2

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The return of the “Losering” holiday special

LoseringBowThis weekend marks the official start of another holiday shopping season, with all the madness and forced merriment that implies. It’s the season when you’ll see gift guides all over the place, including my contribution to the Sunday News & Observer (music suggestions at the bottom are mine). It would be a fine idea to avoid going anywhere your local shopping mall, and I’m here to help with a gift you can procure without even leaving the house: Another “Losering” holiday special, which was enough of a hit last year that I’m offering it again this year at an even lower price.

From now until January, you can order copies of “Losering” directly from me for $12, which is $4.55 less than amazon’s current physical-copy price. And in my own personal version of “Amazon Prime,” that 12 bucks includes shipping as long as it’s within the U.S. (think of it as “Losering Prime”). A signature is free, of course, if you want it.

So give me a holler at dlmenconi@gmail.com, and I shall be glad to hook you up. Makes a great gift, so buy in bulk!

Meanwhile, happy holidays to you and yours in whatever way, shape or form you mark ‘em. God bless us, everyone.

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Ryan’s Raleigh — disappearing fast…

SadlacksBefore

Sadlack’s, circa 2012.

Toward the end of “Losering,” I wrote that Ryan Adams probably wouldn’t even recognize his old hometown anymore, given how much of Raleigh has been torn down and rebuilt since Whiskeytown’s 1990s heyday. You don’t have to look any farther than the Hillsborough Street strip, Raleigh’s main drag along the northern edge of the NC State campus, to see how some of the city’s most notable Whiskeytown-era landmarks are disappearing, bulldozed to make way for fancy new real-estate projects going up.

Right across from the NC State Bell Tower is where the former Sadlack’s stood, at the corner of Hillsborough and Enterprise streets. Here it is on the right, the place where Whiskeytown first convened 20 years ago. But Sadlack’s has been gone since its last-waltz blowout this past New Year’s Eve and below is what that block looks like now, on its way to becoming a 135-room Aloft Hotel that will open sometime next summer.

SadsNov

The new Aloft Hotel rises over the grave of Sadlack’s.

 


BreweryNov

Stanhope, under construction on the block where The Brewery used to be.

About seventh-tenths of a mile west of where Sadlack’s was, The Brewery nightclub used to stand at 3009 Hillsborough Street; site of countless late and great nights with Whiskeytown, Backsliders, 6 String Drags and other cool bands from all over. After the club was torn down in 2011, that block stood vacant for a couple of years, home to nothing more than weeds and parked cars. Now it’s being turned into the huge student-residential complex you see going up here on the right; called Stanhope, it’s also opening next summer.

DaisyStNov

6 Daisy Street in Raleigh, home of Lazy Stars, American Rock Highway and other bands from Ryan Adams’ distant past.

Fortunately, not quite everything has vanished. Ryan’s old residence with Tom Cushman, the Daisy Street House, is still standing just off Hillsborough Street. Here it is on the left; I parked in front of it when I went by to take the picture of the old Brewery site.

Also, former Brewery co-owner (and “Come Pick Me Up” co-writer) Van Alston is still a nightlife impressario in Raleigh, picking up musicians’ bar tabs at his current downtown joint Slim’s. In recognition of his many contributions to the music community over the years, the local alt-weekly here recently bequeathed Alston with one of its annual Indies Arts Awards — for which congratulations are in order.

Alas, something else that hasn’t changed all these years later is that Ryan remains a magnet for hecklers, even when he’s playing bigger, plusher rooms than he ever played in Raleigh; and he still doesn’t hesitate to fire back. A friend of mine knows someone who caught Ryan’s show in Boston the other night and passed along the following account of the evening:

Ryan Adams is incredibly gifted, but sober or not, still a bit of a jerk on stage. Nothing like when I first saw him play at the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street, where he put his back to audience for much of the show, and/or stood in the stage wings, in darkness, out of the view of the paying attendees. He ripped into a couple of fans last night, one of whom was right next to me. “You should write a blog to speak your mind, and join this asshole in front of me, you fucking prick!” That was typical of comments throughout the night… My friend was somehow able to isolate Adams’ snarky persona from his performance and still enjoy the event, something I wasn’t quite able to do.

Oh, Ryan…

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