Let love rule

RainbowIn case you somehow haven’t heard, June 26, 2015, was a pretty momentous day here in these United States. Even the folks behind the WordPress blogging system got in on paying tribute to today’s Supreme Court marriage-equality ruling and the beginning of Pride Weekend. On the right here is the behind-the-wall dashboard I see when I’m logged in and checking daily statistics for my blog. Ordinarily, the bar at the top is solid blue. As you can see, however, today it’s a rainbow.

So to all the haters, I’ve got one thing to say: Let freedom ring, y’all.

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Holding onto black metal

BernieRyan Adams has always had a fondness for the darker side of metal, to the point that he’ll occasionally bust out a death-metal version of “16 Days” onstage (full-band as well as solo). So I bet he’d totally dig this exceptionally well-executed reimagining of Presidential campaign logos as black-metal icons by the great designer Christophe Szpajdel, via Fast Company.

Ryan hasn’t expressed a candidate preference that I know of, but I’d be surprised if he weren’t supporting Bernie Sanders for President. So that one is on the right here, and you can click on through to see the rest of the field — including Jeb! Bush, and Donald Trump memorably signifed as the rear end of an elephant.

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Ryan Adams burns (joints) in the night

RABITNBy now, everybody who takes a chance on one of Ryan Adams’ limited-edition seven-inch singles should know that they’re pretty much of a crapshoot. The series has offered up the occasional gem like last fall’s heartbreaking “Jacksonville,” as well as odious turkeys like the thoroughly useless “Vampires.” But his latest effort, “Burn in the Night,” lands closer to the good end of that gem-to-turkey spectrum.

The opening title track is a chiming rocker with a rough edge; it would have perked up last year’s Ryan Adams album a good bit had he found a way to make it fit. And the closing “Look in the Mirror,” an outtake from Ryan’s Husker Du tribute EP 1984, is by far the best third cut of this seven-inch series — it feels like an actual song rather than a self-indulgent goof.

But of course, this wouldn’t be Ryan if it didn’t have at least one missed opportunity, and that would be the middle track. “Cop City” starts out more than promisingly enough with an arrangement reminiscent of The Who, pairing a Pete Townshend-style clarion-call guitar riff with nicely overplayed drums. But that good first impression starts to fade once you pay attention to the words Ryan is singing, and the realization sets in that they’re probably something he came up with on the spot while under the influence of a great deal of pot:

Eddie & the Cruisers
But they were from Mars
And they all survived on chocolate bars…

LoseringOh, Ryan…Anyway, take a listen here, and peep his online description (which I’m including below just in case it disappears from his website, as tends to happen). Regarding the part that I’ve boldfaced, I’d like to think it means that “Burn in the Night” was written about Amy Lombardi; and if that’s the case, it’s so cool that he’s still writing the occasional song about his long-ago “New York, New York” muse all these years later. See chapter eight of “Losering” for more about that.

Los Angeles… ugh…WHAT ARE YOU?!? That is how this single feels to me.

Three tracks from the hot summer nights — greenish smoke billowing out from the upstairs office door of the PaxAm office, just next to the live room.
Burn In The Night is me ruminating on an old NYC love lost- and how funny it is to get older and sort of put some of that behind you- but never really getting as far behind you as you’d like. I always felt like that song was really special but it never fit anywhere. Thank goodness we make these singles.
Marshall on the drums, me on the guitar and everything else.
COP CITY- another song about the last weekend of every month in LA when all the police are out giving tickets and ALL I WANNA DO IS GET TO MY PINBALL SPOT. This was one of the jams me and Mike V made on the never-to be-released ALIEN USA album experiment with Jeremy Stacey on drums and us going for the “big sound.” We found it later but here and there a few really cool tracks stood out. This one especially feels so good. Its traffic and being at the end of your rope.
LOOK IN THE MIRROR is me on everything and a song that I recorded too late to go on the 1984 record. Hey but NOT TO WORRY… soon you’ll have 1985 and 1986…. and who knows what else.
With Love,
From the early summer tour 2015
DRA
The Windsor Hotel

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Happy Father’s Day from Butch and Ryan

This isn’t a Ryan Adams song, but it’s one he produced and it definitely bears his sonic stamp — and it’s also a song that Butch Walker was weeping while playing when I saw him in Durham last month. So take a listen to Butch’s “Father’s Day,” and then call all the father figures in your life if you haven’t already today. Happy father’s day, y’all.

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Chris Stamey’s “Universe-Sized Arms,” from Ryan Adams

Stamey2015It’s not much of an overstatement to call Chris Stamey one of the great father figures to the music community around greater Chapel Hill, where the dB’s co-founder has toiled in the studio trenches with great honor for more than two decades. Chris was a key player in the early phases of the Whiskeytown saga, lending studio savvy at various junctures through the 1990s (including production of the great 1998 “lost” album, Forever Valentine). He also produced some spectacular post-Whiskeytown solo albums for Caitlin Cary.

More recently, Chris has served as producer, mentor and fixer for an entire generation of younger area artists, working with them on recordings and shows like the ongoing live performances of Big Star’s Third that he oversees. Brett Harris, Jeff Crawford, Skylar Gudasz and Django Haskins, among many others, have benefited greatly from the master’s assistance and guidance.

EuphoriaSomehow, Chris finds time to continue making records of his own, too. The latest is the aptly titled Euphoria (Yep Roc Records), a full-on rock record after the chamber-pop detour of 2013’s Lovesick Blues. Euphoria brings together a lot of the young guns from Stamey’s circle, alongside fellow North Carolina legends like Mitch Easter, figurehead of ’80s college-radio legends Let’s Active.

Of particular interest to Planet “Losering,” the album opens with a previously unheard song written by our man Ryan Adams, “Universe-Sized Arms.” Ryan wrote “Universe-Sized Arms” as a driving rocker, and Chris added a very cool orchestrated arrangement reminiscent of the old “James Bond” spy-movie soundtracks. Euphoria‘s other 12 tracks are quite fine as well, with Stamey’s usual surplus of melodic goodness plus a nifty bonus-track cover of the 1971 Tommy James hit “Draggin’ the Line” to boot.

Chris will unveil Euphoria with an album-release show Saturday night in Carrboro, and you can read a bit more about the record and details about the show here. I’m also delighted to be able to premiere the “Universe-Sized Arms” video below. Enjoy, y’all.

 

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God Save The Queen

“Losering” has been out in the world for a couple of years, long enough that checking its Amazon sales ranking ceased being a daily ritual some time ago. But I’ll still look it up on occasion, mostly to see if anybody else has reviewed it (I’m still waiting for a review in Spain, Brazil and France, among other places, y’all). And it will still jump on up the sales list every now and then, too. The other day, in fact, it even hit No. 1 for “Biographies of Country Musicians” on Amazon.UK — nestled, as you can see below, ahead of books about Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

Of course, this was short-lived. “Losering” slid on down very quickly and yielded the top spot to Johnny Cash, which seems only right. Still, I think I like this one even better than the book’s other summit appearances, in Canada.

UK#1


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Slings and arrows

If you’re looking for evidence that Ryan Adams has “matured” a bit over the past decade, the fact that this “Unfair Record Review” by Tom Scharpling apparently never induced anything like Ryan’s infamous Jim DeRogatis phone call could be Exhibit A. I’m a fan of Tom’s, especially his work with Ryan’s sometime-bandmate Jon Wurster, but I wouldn’t call this one of his better pieces of work.

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Chilling in the 919

TaylorLordeSomebody tell Ryan Adams that he just doesn’t know what he’s missing by staying away from Raleigh for so long. I mean, Taylor Swift (who is playing Raleigh’s PNC Arena tonight) and Lorde both like this town enough to trade enthusiastic endorsements via their respective Twitter feeds. What further encouragement could one possibly need to come home?

Meanwhile, yes, I’ll be at PNC Arena tonight, notebook in hand, to cover the Taylor Swift show; review to come. Her fans are already gathering.

UPDATE (6/10/15): And here is the review. It really is Taylor Swift’s world and we just live in it.

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Books, beer and insights into “Hell”

BooksBeerPerhaps you’ve noticed that the cover of “Losering” depicts a shattered beer bottle (and thanks again to cover artist Lindsay Starr, because that’s a pretty fair summation of how things went for Ryan Adams during his Whiskeytown days). If you’re an enthusiast of the sudsy as well as literary arts, come on out to this week’s “Books & Beer” at The Roost in Pittsboro’s Fearrington Village.

Books & Beer is an extraordinarily cool music/literary/beer-drinking series that presents two participants at a time, talking books in an informal atmosphere helped along by good spirits. This week’s installment features yours truly as well as Squirrel Nut Zippers alumnus Tom Maxwell, who will play some music and talk about “Hell,” the Zippers-era memoir he published last year.

As for me, I’ll probably talk a bit about the paper and “Losering” as well as my next book, if anybody’s interested, and maybe even the one after that (if you really want to know, come on out and ask). But mostly, I expect I’ll spend some time leading whatever audience we draw in a group interview of Tom, because he’s a hilarious and world-class raconteur as well as a fine musician and writer.

It should be a rousing good time, and I’m told that anybody who buys a book will get a free beer to go with it — in an unbroken container, no less. Hope to see you there.

 

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Ten years after…

DRA6805Today, June 8, marks a notable double-digit anniversary, and I ain’t talking about Nancy Sinatra’s 75th birthday. No, today makes exactly 10 long years since Ryan Adams last played his old hometown. It happened about a month after the release of Cold Roses (the first of three albums he would release in 2005), drawing a soldout crowd to Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh, and it was an evening fraught with tension — but also release and redemption. There’s plenty more about that in the closing stretch of  “Losering,” as well as in this post.

“We hope to see you again very soon,” Ryan told the audience during band bows immediately following a ragged-yet-lovely encore version of “Houses on the Hill” with his old Whiskeytown bandmate Caitlin Cary. That night, there seemed to be no reason to believe this particular show would stand as any sort of final farewell. Yet Ryan has stayed away for 3,652 days now (taking leap years into account), going out of his way to pointedly avoid North Carolina even as this year’s tour schedule has had him playing in every adjoining state. As to why, the reasons seem both mysterious and complicated. I know an area promoter who tried to book Ryan several years ago, to no avail. The answer from his management was that Ryan has stayed away intentionally because while he has “moved on” from that chapter of his life, “North Carolina has not.”

I’m still not sure what that’s supposed to mean. If there are people still nursing grudges in the greater Raleigh vicinity, they’re far, far outnumbered by the legions of fans who would love to see Ryan here. And as I wrote in the “Losering” preface, Ryan is remembered more fondly in Raleigh than he may realize. Yet he chooses to keep his distance, and so it goes. I hope the boycott ends someday, and ends well.

If it doesn’t…well, I guess we’ll always have Meymandi.

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