So when yesterday’s post about Strangers Almanac coming of age went around the Ryan Adams fan universe, one person who chimed in was a superfan from Germany named Sarah, who might actually love that album even more than I do. Sarah posted a few pictures of her tattooed left arm, reproduced here with her kind permission. As someone who never got over my dislike of needles enough to get a tattoo myself, I can’t help but find this as impressive as it is beautiful.
Hey, Ryan, you sure do have some devoted fans…
This can’t possibly be true, and yet it is. Strangers Almanac, the album I was certain would launch Whiskeytown to the toppermost-of-the-poppermost heavens way back when, was released 18 long years ago today.
An awful lot has changed since July 29, 1997. Whiskeytown is long gone, of course, Ryan Adams doesn’t live (or even play) in Raleigh anymore and his old hometown is so bustling nowadays as to be almost unrecognizable. But what hasn’t changed is that Strangers is still the best album Ryan has ever been a part of. And while I’m pulling for him, of course, I don’t see that changing.
Anyway, time for some binge-listening in this album’s honor. I might even dust this off and give it a listen again.
So if you’ve come around here before, you’re probably noticing that the joint suddenly looks a little different. I’ve got another book coming out, so the Loserblog is evolving and expanding — my first steps toward repurposing it into something that will also accommodate my other bookish endeavors.
If you come here for the obsessive Ryan Adams ruminations and stalkery, don’t worry. I’ll still do that, when warranted, mostly because I’m not sure I can stop myself after this long. But there will also be items about Asleep at the Wheel and the book I co-wrote with Ray Benson, “Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel.” The official publication date for “Comin’ Right at Ya” is Oct. 1, and the first review just turned up in the venerable book magazine Kirkus Reviews (which didn’t review “Losering,” so that’s a step up). And it’s a mostly kind review that can be summarized by its first and last sentences:
Affable, easygoing, sometimes almost-too-mellow memoir by the noted evangelist of Western swing music and driver of Asleep at the Wheel. A pleasure for fans of Benson and the band.
Not so sure about the “almost-too-mellow” part, but what the heck, we’ll take that. Check the whole thing here.
Ryan Adams might not play his native state anymore, but he does take a little of it with him wherever he goes — even to the other side of the world. Here’s a lovely version of his 2000 Old North State ode “Oh My Sweet Carolina” that Ryan played the other night in Melbourne, Australia, with Jenny Lewis covering the Emmylou Harris vocal harmony. While the visuals are on the blurry side, the audio is very nice.
Well, I’ve gotta say, being allowed to join the ranks of the Ryan Adams Cool Kids Facebook group has turned out to be the social-media highlight of this summer. Not that I needed another Facebook-centered time-waster in my life, of course. But hanging out at RACK has been a lot of fun, and here’s a thing over there: People Holding Ryan Adams Albums, goofy Photoshopped pictures of everyone from Britney Spears to Christian “American Psycho” Bale holding Ryan’s record covers. They’ve compiled the results on a non-Facebook website billed as “A Subdivision of RACK, Inc.” (and I had no idea it was this corporate). Anyway, take a look and play along.
So I just joined a rather unusual Facebook group by the name of Ryan Adams Cool Kids. It’s a private group and actually persuading the gatekeepers to let me join was a process, as they say. I had to send three requests and do a bit of whining through back-door channels before they finally relented and let me in, which happened this afternoon.
So now that I’m in there, I’ve discovered that the banter is (a) not really that much about Ryan Adams and (b) a bit on the sharp side, though mostly (I think) in fun. But one of the RACK denizens was kind enough to concoct and post a great little welcome, this Photoshopped picture depicting the late great Marilyn Monroe perusing a copy of “Losering.” If only!
As a longtime Monroe devotee, I am beyond honored. Still not cool enough for the room, of course, but I think I’m gonna be happy to lurk there.
ADDENDUM (7/19/15) — Below, from another RACK thread…
In 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.
By 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…
Oh, 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
ADDENDUM (7/31/2015): Next up in the seven-inch series is “Willow Lane.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t even sound half-baked — more like quarter-baked.
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.