Thanksgiving suggestions from Ryan Adams, then and now

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-10-12-15-amRyan Adams has been getting in touch with his inner Morrissey this week, pleading with his fellow Twitter travelers to make their Thanksgiving celebrations non-carnivorous. One such tweet is here on the right, but Ryan’s save-the-animals request has not been universally well-received. One wag called him out with a quip: “Remind us how many leather jackets you have?”

I choose to remember a more innocent time, way back in 1999, when Ryan was a lad of 25 and not yet into a vegetarian (or at least healthy-eating) phase. That year, he previewed Thanksgiving at his house with a highly entertaining post to the old No Depression folder, which I’ve reproduced below verbatim:


Turkey with ALL the fixings

Rusty nails and Oyster soup is good and can be served with a hodge-podge of many different things. Some might say crackers with gloop may fit the plate nicely to add a touch of rural flavoring, while others may prefer Roedung Rye Chippers with bugs. Myself, I usually stir up a blended mix of mayonaise-dirty lentil dressing, done up third world style with grits and mac and cheese power flavoring and onion soup packette with ketchup and goop zebra extract.

theres really no way to serve this up wrong. its a hit at the dinner table everytime

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Endless hours of metallic fun

Presenting the Metallica Logo Generator, a fun little trifle that offers endless possibilities for customizing a favorite name or saying in the style of the metal band’s classic font. I happened onto this on Facebook and couldn’t resist doing one in honor of “Comin’ Right at Ya” subject/star/co-writer Ray Benson’s band Asleep at the Wheel, which you can see below. Western swing has never been so heavy!


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Worlds away

Cool thing about publishing a book is, after you set it loose, you never know how far copies of it will eventually travel. And I expect that Chandigarh in Northern India is about as far away from me as a copy of “Losering” has ever turned up. Here is a picture that Lise Michaela Lodahl was kind enough to post on the Ryan Adams Superfans Facebook page, and it’s pretty amazing to imagine someone on another continent reading a book I wrote — more than 12,000 miles away from Raleigh, literally half a world away. Nice.



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Hey 19 — and 18

Near as I can tell, “Losering” and “Comin’ Right at Ya” have never been in the top-10 of amazon’s country book chart at the same time — although it’s almost happened a few times over the past year. But it’s nice that, more than a year after “Comin’ Right at Ya” was published (and four-plus years on for “Losering”), they’re both still bouncing around enough to briefly come to rest within one space of each other in the top-20.

As I keep telling myself: Slow and steady wins the race.



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Ryan Adams, prisoner of love

This Friday will be Nov. 4, and it may or may not see the release of a new Ryan Adams album called Prisoner. It’s a project Ryan has been talking about for close to two years now (see this handy timeline), and he claims to have recorded more than 80 songs for it. The initial interview about the album cited Nov. 4 as the release date, and Rolling Stone magazine thought it was enough of a sure thing to include Prisoner in its fall preview of “35 Must-Hear Albums” back in September.

But still, we’ve not seen track lists, cover art, pre-order previews or any of the other promotional tidbits that usually get dangled out there in the run-up to a high-profile album’s release. So two weeks ago, I put the question to Ryan’s publicist as to whether or not Prisoner really was coming out on Nov. 4 and received the terse reply, “tbd.” I asked today if anything had been determined and the answer was longer this time, but not much:

Nope, we’ll make a formal announcement once it’s ready.

It’s possible Ryan will follow the “unannounced surprise” model Beyonce has used for her last few albums and just drop the thing with no warning. But this point…I wouldn’t set your watch for Friday.

ADDENDUM (11/2/2016): It’s officially delayed.



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Coming in 2017: “Woman Walk the Line”

UTPressLogoWith Lloyd Sachs’ “T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit” safely launched, we turn to the next book in the American Music Series, which will be the 11th that University of Texas Press has published since 2012. And that’s “Chrissie Hynde: A Musical Biography,” by Adam Sobsey; we’ll have plenty more to say about it closer to the March 2017 publication date. Meanwhile, there’s also some American Music Series news beyond that.

Coming in the fall of 2017 is “Woman Walk the Line: Women Writers on the Female Country Artists Who Marked Their Soul,” which will be something of a departure for the series. Up to now, it’s been all critical biographies by a single author and about a single subject. But “Woman Walk the Line” is our first essay collection by multiple authors. Subjects include a wide range of artists from classic to contemporary — Rosanne Cash, Taylor Swift, Loretta Lynn, The Judds, Alison Krauss, Bobbie Gentry, Tammy Wynette — with Cash, Swift, Holly George-Warren and Meredith Ochs among the contributors writing about why these artists matter.

Overseeing “Woman Walk the Line” as editor is Holly Gleason — a long-time critic, author and Nashville insider who is also the only music critic I know with a co-writing credit for a No. 1 hit (Kenny Chesney’s 2008 country smash “Better as a Memory”). Between her connections, critical chops and deeply passionate writing voice, there’s no one better to edit a book like this.

“‘Woman Walk the Line’ came about because it feels like we’re not just in danger of losing the story of so many incredible artists, especially the women, but that deeper sense of what music can truly to mean to someone in their life,” says Holly. “The way this music and these women are written about says so much about the way music marks our lives, shapes our journey or keeps us safe in rugged times. It’s women of varying ages all writing about how music touched and changed their lives — part witness, part love letter, a bit of music criticism, a little history and a whole lot of heart. It’s more than what they wore or who they dated, as today’s reductionist media makes it. And that’s where the marrow of these essays begins.”

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Ryan Adams can’t fly or sink or swim

Last time I saw a Ryan Adams performance, this past March at South By Southwest, the setlist had no Whiskeytown songs. That’s pretty typical nowadays for Ryan, who rarely revisits his former band’s catalog. But every now and then, Ryan will dust off one of those old “Losering”-era songs just for the heck of it. Here’s one I just now belatedly happened across, from a 2014 show in Milwaukee — a version of the Strangers Almanac song “Yesterday’s News,” recorded with The Shining and complete with the namecheck tribute to one of the finer now-defunct nightspots in Ryan’s long-ago hometown of Raleigh. That made me smile.

“See you at the Comet,” indeed.


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Gameplay with Ryan Adams

tokennoteGiven how much of his life he’s spent pursuing numerous and varied types of gaming arts, it’s hard to imagine anybody on earth who would be more thrilled than Ryan Adams to have his likeness stamped onto an arcade token. So it was probably a bucket-list dream come true for a pinball enthusiast like Ryan to appear on tokens for the Analog Arcade Bar in the Quad Cities town of Davenport, Iowa. Analog is a game joint stocked with a ton of cool pinball machines and arcade games, and it looks like the kind of place that would be Ryan’s go-to hangout spot if he lived in the vicinity.

The tokens are about the size of a quarter and depict a bespectacled and tousle-haired Ryan beneath the motto “IN RYAN WE TRUST” on one side, with the Arcade logo emblazoned on the other. Ryan responded to the honor with an Instagram post, saying he felt like he’d “won the Nerdlympics.” The folks who run Analog were kind enough to send me a few with I asked for some, along with a very nice note. I plan to keep them in my Whiskeytown treasure trove, right next to the whiskey bottle. And I’d call this the coolest act of DRA homage this side of the menu at Sticks & Stones Pizza in Greensboro, North Carolina.


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Whiskeytown on the alt-rock roadmap

altmapThis thing is kind of making my head explode. Seriously, the “Alternative Love Blueprint — A History of Alternative Music” data-viz poster (available for $43), which elegantly portrays the lineage through connections on the circuit board of a transistor radio circa the early rock era, is definitively mind-blowing as well as theoretically sound, with unbelievable attention to detail.

Having once attempted a similar project myself, a very long time ago, I can tell you that putting something like this together is a lot harder than it looks. And for me, the cherry on top of the whole thing is that our man Ryan Adams is in there, in the upper right corner in the same vicinity as Black Keys, White Denim, Uncle Tupelo and Wilco. But Ryan appears in such a way that you could say he’s subordinate to Whiskeytown. Like I said: theoretically sound!

Online, check it out at, where you can hover over various quadrants to get an enlarged view of all the details.


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“Exile on Franklin Street”

One of the tenets of The Mythology of Ryan Adams is the guy’s endlessly hyper-prolific nature. Yes, he cranks out songs as easily as most people breathe, often excitedly committing them to tape very quickly — where, more often than not, they languish unreleased and unheard by the world at large.

So it is that, as covered in “Losering,” Ryan has recorded at least several dozen albums worth of songs that have never been properly released. Chief among these is Exile on Franklin Streetnamed in honor of one of Ryan’s old back-in-the-day Raleigh addresses and a collection of songs he was talking about when I was interviewing him 15-plus years ago. Most of the songs on Exile have been intermittently available over the years as bootlegs; and here they are, compiled in extensive and relatively accessible form.

Seems like just the thing to listen to while awaiting his next magnum opus.

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