Smashing the state

ChrisClemmonsA few years back, when I was doing research for “Losering,” I interviewed a lot of people — around 40, not all of whom were quoted in the final manuscript because I only had 50,000 words, and there were probably at least that many I spoke to informally or for background. But I still didn’t even come close to getting around to everyone, which means there are still plenty of interesting, amusing, horrifying and even all-of-the-above Ryan Adams stories floating around Raleigh.

One person I didn’t get to in time was Chris Clemmons, a longtime member of the Triangle music community and a bandmate of Sara Bell’s in various groups including Regina Hexaphone (Chris was also the source of the party flyer referenced in this post, which is one of many cool artifacts in his archive). When he was between bands 20-some years ago, Chris informally auditioned as bassist for what eventually became Whiskeytown. At the time, he was living in the Boylan Heights district of downtown Raleigh, in a bungalow apartment upstairs from Caitlin Cary.

His memories of the experience:

I joined them down in Caitlin’s living room one time, we set up and played a few songs. Ryan and Skillet (Gilmore) were both there, too. They probably only had four or five songs at that time, and it went okay until Ryan said we were going to “smash the state.” I think that was his punk-rock ethos because it’s what all the punk bands wanted to go out and do — but this would be a COUNTRY band doing it. Anyway, I said, “I work for the state,” and the conversation did not go so well after that. But I’ve worked in human resources for the state for about 25 years now.

Anyway, Steve (Grothmann) was in the graduate program with Caitlin at NC State. So they knew each other and Caitlin told me they were looking for someone who played standup bass, which he did. I don’t know if he ever actually played standup in Whiskeytown, but he wound up there. I never really knew Ryan and that may have been the first and last conversation I ever had with him. And Whiskeytown broke up in 2000, but I’m still working for the state. I still think about that story now and then.

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I’m almost half a millionaire and didn’t even know it

Demolition$This can’t possibly be right. But according to this online listing, the Bluesite Record Shop in Germany has a vinyl copy of Ryan Adams’ 2002 album Demolition for sale online for the low, low price of — drumroll, please$439,991.85 (and can I just say that I love the 85 cents tacked onto the end of this?). Now I’m glad to own Demolition, an album I like a lot more than most hardcore fans; but not enough to make it worth quite that much. Maybe Demolition is a lot scarcer in Germany than the U.S., where amazon has used CD copies for one penny.

Like I said, gotta be a glitch.

UPDATE (4/14/2015): One day later and the listed price is lower — but not by much. Now it’s listed for $438,035.53. Hmm…

RAPersonalityQuiz

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What Ryan Adams was doing this weekend: Coachella

coachellaSo while Ryan Adams’ old hometown fans (including yours truly) were paying tribute to his music at Saturday night’s “Losering 2″ show in Raleigh, Ryan himself was in California at the Coachella Festival for the first time ever — part of an impressive festival run he’s playing this year. Ryan played on Sunday night; and if you didn’t tune in the live-stream, video of his performance is at the bottom of this page and an archive audio recording is here. 

While you’re listening, you can read some reviews (not all positive) herehere and here. Perhaps you’ll be moved to respond as the woman below did.

FanDance

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Losering 2: Thank you, friends

L2BlackboardThe first “Losering” tribute show back in 2013 went so great, I had a hard time imagining a sequel could come anywhere close to matching it. But Saturday night’s “Losering 2: A tribute to the Songs of Ryan Adams” at Deep South the Bar was truly start-to-finish wonderful in every way. It raised $923.46 for the Food Bank of Eastern & Central North Carolina, and the music was so moving that I found myself misting up a good half-dozen times over the course of the evening.

Mark Cimerro started things off with two early-period Whiskeytown songs, which was fitting. Mark used to be proprietor of Sonic Wave, the Raleigh studio where Whiskeytown recorded the tracks that became the 1995 “Angels Are Messengers From God” EP (and later the 1997 album Rural Free Delivery). “Too Drunk to Dream,” featuring pedal steel by Dylan Ritter from Greensboro’s The Grand Ole Uproar, was particularly fine; and for a between-song bonus, Mark recounted how Ryan had taken all the pictures off the walls at Sonic Wave during the Whiskeytown sessions because he found the studio environs “too nice.” Oh, that Ryan.

RachelHirsh

Rachel Hirsh destroying “Dancing With the Women at the Bar” — in the best way possible.

I got to host and introduce the bands, but there’s no way this show would have happened without the efforts of various members of I Was Totally Destroying It. Frontman John Booker booked the acts, helped stage-manage and performed himself; his version of “Somebody Remembers the Rose” was my first lump-in-the-throat moment of the night. IWTDI guitarist Curtis Armstead also ran sound and played (leading a nice “Come Pick Me Up” sing-along), and Rachel Hirsh’s version of “Dancing With the Women at the Bar” was a revelation that she really should record.

Also working hard was Aslan Freeman, who played his own set (props for “Turn Around,” especially) and backed up enough of the bill that he was onstage for a good chunk of the night. One person he played with was Kasey Tyndall, a young singer with a preternaturally big voice for a 19-year-old. She’s moving to Nashville soon and I expect you’ll be hearing a lot more from her before too long.

Other highlights: Ryan “Showtime” Kennemur and Taylor Adams from Dragmatic pretty much killing with “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight”; Keef Debonzo’s “Lucky Now,” another mist-up moment for me; Charles Marshall and Mike Ferguson from Balsa Gliders recreating “(Argument with David Rawlings concerning Morissey),” the spoken-word bit that opens Ryan’s Heartbreaker album; and the jaw-dropping voice of New Reveille’s Amy Kann. I tried shooting video of Amy singing “Easy Hearts” and the audio didn’t come out well enough to post; but check out New Reveille’s video here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not usually onstage myself and if you were to ever hear me sing in public — which, to adopt the parlance of Taylor Swift, is so not going to happen, like, ever — you’d agree that’s a big, big net positive for the planet. But about halfway through the evening, Deep South co-owner Dave Rose called me from my side-stage MC perch to the center of the stage, to receive the plaque below. I had no idea that was coming, and I can’t tell you how touching it was. I’d already felt honored and humbled by the whole thing, and that put a nice capper on an amazing night. If you were there, you know. If you weren’t, well, you should’ve been.

All I can say is: Thank you, friends.

LoseringPlaque

“Losering 2″ setlist

Mark Cimerro: “Tennessee Square,” “Too Drunk to Dream”

John Booker (I Was Totally Destroying It): “Somebody Remembers the Rose,” “Feels Like Fire,” “Two,” “When the Stars Go Blue”

Ryan Kennemur and Taylor Adams (Dragmatic): “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight,” “Drank Like a River,” “Houses on the Hill”

Curtis Armstead (IWTDI): “Trouble,” “Come Pick Me Up”

Stephen Chandler Wilson (The Arcane Heart): “Dance All Night,” “Blue Hotel”

Aslan Freeman (Future Ghosts): “Turn Around,” “Am I Safe,” “Anybody Want to Take Me Home”

Kasey Tyndall: “16 Days,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Don’t Wanna Know Why,” “New York, New York”

Keef and Dave Debonzo (Debonzo Brothers): “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” “Ballad of Carol Lynn,” “Lucky Now”

Rachel Hirsh (IWTDI): “Wolves,” “Gimme Something Good,” “Dancing With the Women at the Bar”

Members of New Reveille: “To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high),” “Easy Hearts”

Charles Marshall, Mike Ferguson (Balsa Gliders), Richard Bolton: “(Argument with David Rawlings concerning Morissey),” “Damn Sam (I love a woman that rains),” “Not Home Anymore”

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Anne Tkach, one of the good ones — rest in peace

AnneVintageVinylThere’s horribly sad news today out of St. Louis, where Anne Tkach died in a house fire early Thursday morning. Anne was 48 years old and left behind a stunned community of friends and fans, who lit up her Facebook wall with expressions of condolences as the news broke. You can find further remembrances of her here, here, here, herehere and here.

Hazeldine

From left, Anne Tkach, Tonya Lamm and Shawn Barton were the band Hazeldine.

I first met Anne in the mid-1990s when she was playing in the New Mexico band Hazeldine, one of the most promising acts of that generation of alternative country. Anne would go on to play in Nadine, Skekses, Rough Shop and other bands in the St. Louis area, while her bandmate Tonya Lamm formed Tres Chicas with Lynn Blakey and Whiskeytown’s Caitlin Cary.

In 1997, however, Hazeldine was on the No Depression concert tour alongside Whiskeytown and Old 97s — during which Ryan Adams concocted a for-the-papers “feud” between those two bands (more on that in chapter 7 of “Losering”). I asked Anne about it some years later and she just smiled, laughed and gave a bit of an eye-roll as she shrugged, which was probably the only sensible response. I remember her as someone who was always right in the pocket onstage, and who never had anything but kind words for everyone off of it.

She’ll be missed — that’s probably the understatement of the year. I still can’t believe it.

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Come on out for “Losering 2: A Tribute to the Songs of Ryan Adams”

Losering2lineupI am very rarely on stages myself, which is better all the way around. But this Saturday night (April 11) you can find me onstage at Deep South the Bar in downtown Raleigh, where it will be my privilege and pleasure to host “Losering 2: A Tribute to the Songs of Ryan Adams.”

It’s an event that’s been in the works a while, ably booked and produced by John Booker and Deep South head Dave Rose. And if it’s anything like the first edition from 2013, this will be a great night. Members of I Was Totally Destroying It, Old Quarter, Dragmatic and other fine area acts will be performing songs from the Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown songbook; and the playlist includes “Somebody Remembers the Rose,” “16 Days,” “Too Drunk to Dream,” “Tennessee Square” and lots of other favorites.

Just to reiterate, Ryan himself will not be there. But you should be. Proceeds benefit the Food Bank of Eastern & Central North Carolina, so it’s for a righteous cause. Y’all come!

(By the way, we got less snark from the Indy this time than last time.)

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Behind the curtain with “Faded Love”

TimeJumpers

That’s me in the doorway, head down, surrounded by Time Jumpers.

So this Asleep at the Wheel book I co-wrote with Ray Benson, “Comin’ Right at Ya,” will be published in October. But it’s been in the works for a couple of years, since the summer of 2013. Because the subject was participating this time around, it was a lot more fun and less pressurized than “Losering.” Maybe the most appealing aspect of the whole thing was the opportunity it gave me to hang out behind the curtain in Ray’s world for a while. We met up a half-dozen times during 2013 and 2014, so I could interview Ray and associates, and also lurk around watching him work.

One of the most memorable such occasions was August 2013, a rendezvous with Asleep at the Wheel at the home of Vince Gill and Amy Grant. The Gill-Grant estate was just another super-nice mansion in the good part of Nashville — except, of course, for distinguishing features like the putting green in the yard, the dozens of Grammy Awards lining the shelves, the framed letters from Elton John and other celebrities hanging on the bathroom walls and the first-class recording studio in the house.

StillKing-DIEThe day I was there, Ray and company were working in Gill’s studio with his Western swing group the Time Jumpers to record “Faded Love,” which appears on the new Asleep at the Wheel album Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. I got a souvenir out of it, too, a brief appearance near the beginning of the behind-the-scenes “Faded Love” video. In the screengrab above, that’s me sitting on the steps in the doorway. If memory serves, I kept my head down for the cameras because I somehow thought that would make me seem less obtrusive.

But I’ll tell you what, I sure did lift up my head when Time Jumpers vocalist Dawn Sears began to sing that day. I hadn’t been familiar with Dawn before, but she was just jaw-droppingly great – maybe the best singer I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing up-close. Sadly, Dawn died of cancer this past December. But you get a sense of what a powerhouse vocalist she was from the video. I wrote a bit more about Dawn and the “Faded Love” video here; and also about the rest of the Still the King album here.

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Waiting for the end of the world

DRAoccultResponseSome people have entirely too much time on their hands. For example, there’s the obviously quite-addled gentleman who put together this video you can watch below, in which he purports to reveal the “Occult symbolism hidden in Ryan Adams WTC music video shot 4 days before 9/11.” Whoever ColCasperUK is, he claims to have discovered numerous Satanic Easter eggs scattered throughout Ryan’s various album covers (especially the recurrent images of roses and the color blue), but most of all in Ryan’s 2001 video for “New York, New York.” I’ll save you 14-plus minutes of rambling incoherence by noting his conclusion:

“All this man is, is nothing but occult.”

Thanks for clearing that up, dude. As wack-job conspiracy theories go, it’s nothing special — and despite lots of vague innuendo about allegedly devilish intentions, at least the guy doesn’t try to claim that Ryan was actually responsible for the Sept. 11 terror attacks. But the funny part is that, given his well-documented love for black metal, Ryan’s response to accusations of necromancy would probably be something along the lines of, Hell, yes!

ADDENDUM: Or the tweet shown above. On behalf of those of us who are Blocked By Ryan Adams on Twitter, thanks Nicole Kriegbaum.

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On the “Blade Radio Show”

BobBladeBob “The Blade” Robinson is a name that should be familiar to multiple generations of rock-radio listeners in the greater Raleigh, North Carolina, vicinity — where Blade was on the air long enough to qualify as an institution (see his 2012 memoir, “There’s Nothing Louder Than Dead Air,” for more). Nowadays, Robinson’s broadcast address is the Doublewide Network, doing the “Blade Radio Show.”  I’m one of the guests on this week’s show, where Bob and I will talk about newer bands of note from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle, last week’s South By Southwest madhouse and possibly even our respective books.

The show is scheduled to go live at 4 p.m. Eastern Time Friday (March 27), and you can listen to it here.

Blade

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