Paperback writer

DRAbooksRyan Adams has enough of a literary streak to have written and published a couple of books himself. But here’s an intriguingly book-ish interpretation of Ryan’s music by someone else, an English artist named Simon James’ — who has rendered the 2014 self-titled album Ryan Adams as if each song on it were a well-worn paperback copy of a novel. The artist has also done similar works based on albums by Roxy Music, Bob Dylan and others.

Given subsequent events since Ryan Adams was released last September, these would probably be some pretty tragic books, too. Still, I’d be more likely to get a print of this to hang on my wall if he’d done one based on Strangers Almanac instead. Just sayin’.

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Showtime’s coming

Losering2So the second “Losering” tribute show is coming up, happening April 11 at Deep South The Bar in downtown Raleigh. And as if you needed another excuse to go, it’s going to be a benefit for the Food Bank of Eastern North Carolina. No, we’re not expecting Ryan himself to show up, but it will be a very fine lineup and most likely another sellout. So don’t sleep on getting tickets.

I’m also happy to report that this is not the only Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown tribute show in the works at Deep South. Coming later this summer will be an event paying homage to the definitive Whiskeytown album, Strangers Almanac. The date for this show is not yet settled, but it will probably happen somewhere around the anniversary of the album’s original release date (which was July 29, 1997). Stay tuned.

PrineEddieWhile I’m at it, there’s also a tribute show inspired by my man Eddie Huffman’s John Prine biography, “In Spite of Himself,” which will be in stores March 15. “A Tribute to John Prine” happens May 17 at Doodad Farm in Greensboro with performers including Chip Robinson, John Howie, Michael Rank, Caleb Caudle, Jon Shain, Danny Gotham and tons more. This, too,ReadLocal1 is a benefit – for Voices Together, a super-cool non-profit in Durham that serves children and adults with disabilities.

I’m not sure I’ll make it to the May 17 Prine tribute show because I’ll be on a music-writing panel at the Read Local Book Festival in Durham that same day. But I hope to be at one of Eddie’s bookstore readings, mostly likely Durham’s Regulator on March 25. He’ll also be at Scuppernong in Greensboro on April 10. Check his book blog for particulars on that.

PrineTributeShow.

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Welcome home again

DRAgtrsmashWith four days to go before it closes, the top eBay bid for Ryan Adams’ smashed Vancouver guitar stands at $530. Auctioneer Thomas O’Keefe has added a few more pictures of the wreckage, viewable here, the aftermath of a show described in Chapter 10 of “Losering.”

But the pictures I’m more interested in show the item Thomas is offering as an accompanying bonus, Ryan’s handwritten lyrics to a lost song called “Welcome Home Again.” It might even be more than one song, because the lyrics on the back side of the paper seem unrelated to what’s on the front.

Whether it’s one song or two, it looks like the handwriting I remember; and the sentiments are familiar, too. Dated Dec. 6, 1997, “Welcome Home Again” was never recorded or performed live as far as I can tell, and it’s obviously a rough sketch that needed work. Still, it reads like something that would have fit right in on Whiskeytown’s Strangers Almanac.

Expressing regret for things lost and bridges burned, “Welcome Home Again” describes the sensation of feeling like a stranger in one’s own hometown. And given Raleigh’s ongoing building boom, which has taken down many a Whiskeytown-era landmark in recent years, the line about “Businesses opened and businesses closed but it’s almost the same” sure does feel up to date.

Welcome home again, indeed. I can just about hear the song this might have been. Would be fun if Ryan came back to Raleigh someday and played this one here, but it will never happen. Maybe this is another job for Elliott Humphries?


DRAWHAWelcome Home Again

The voices have faded from the halls of the houses
where I used to live
And the mirrors reflecting are seeing the damage
I’ve caused since then.
Businesses opened and businesses closed but it’s
Almost the same
Almost the way that I dreamed that I left it but never the same
You try and never seem like a stranger
But you know you are in a way
In a way that just puts you in danger
In danger of just staying that way, welcome home
It just comes and it goes and nobody knows
And I never am welcome home again
All the pictures on the mantle, they become all the
People who I barely knew
And all the money that I earned became the
Streets where I turned to face the drugs that I do.
Businesses opened and businesses closed but
It’s almost the same
Almost the way that I dreamed that I lost
it but never the same.

You try and never seem like a stranger
But you know you need a way
In a way that just puts you in danger
In danger of just staying that way
Welcome home
It just comes and it goes and nobody knows
And I never will be welcome home again

DRAFlipsideAnd the flip-side, which I believe is a separate song (though it has no title):

Take me to the valley where the horses
And the stables are free of all the fences
I’ll be rested to the railing
Provided your ancestry demands another infamous
Heart to destroy like a thousand before
So take me to your leader
And I’ll take you to my gallon
I probably should’ve kissed you
But my spaceship hadn’t landed
Provided my misery demands another infamous heart
To destroy like a thousand before
If I’m not dreaming, then I’ve been drinking

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From past to present: 6 String Drag

6SDB&WOver the last year or so, Kenny Roby, Rob Keller, Scott Miller and Ray Duffey have taken tentative steps toward putting their long-gone band 6 String Drag back together as a serious ongoing concern. That’s a welcome development because the years have been kind to their brand of combustible country-soul. I saw 6 String Drag play a spectacular show in early 2014, which made it clear that they hadn’t lost a step from their mid-’90s prime alongside the Backsliders and Whiskeytown in the Triangle’s top twang troika.

Soon after that show, 6 String Drag went into Mitch Easter’s palatial Fidelitorium studio to record their first album since 1997. A bit more than a year later we have Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll; and my God, is it wonderful. Tight in all the right places and gloriously loose everywhere else, Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll feels like a 40-minute pass to be young again — but not in a creepy, grasping way. It’s the work of people whose spark, collectively as well as individually, has never gone out. You can read a bit more about the record here, and also a longer review here.

Given the vagaries of a music industry that stopped making sense years ago (if ever it did, really), I have small hope that Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll will do enough to set 6 String Drag up as a fulltime occupation for its principles. But the fact that it exists at all feels like a minor miracle that should be celebrated. The album release show happens Friday night at Kings in Raleigh; do not miss it.

(Photo credit: Rodney Boles)

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More Ryan Adams history for sale

DRAgtrsmashFormer Whiskeytown road manager Thomas O’Keefe has been cleaning out his closet of Ryan Adams artifacts of late, and he has a doozy of an item up for sale now on eBay: the remains of a 1964 Gibson Firebird that Ryan smashed onstage in Vancouver in 1998. It’s not playable or even fixable, but for those who care this is a pretty amazing artifact. It was destroyed during a particularly difficult stretch of touring for Whiskeytown that fall, including an infamous near-riot that happened onstage at The Fillmore in San Francisco a few nights later; see chapter 10 of “Losering” for particulars on that.

Meantime, bidding on the guitar (which includes a set of Ryan’s hand-written lyrics) closes on Feb. 28. I’m guessing that John Hiatt will not be putting in a bid, but you can do so here.

UPDATE (2/19/15): Less than 24 hours later, bidding is already up to $530. Will be interesting to see how high this one goes.

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Caitlin and Skillet: Married to the Music

CaitlinSkilletCaitlin Cary and Skillet Gilmore used to be Ryan Adams’ bandmates as two-fifths of Whiskeytown’s lineup during the band’s mid-1990s salad days. But nowadays, they’re one of Raleigh’s coolest music-and-arts power couples. They’ll be on the radio together Thursday night, holding forth on Raleigh’s online station Little Raleigh Radio to present “Married to the Music” on the LRR program “Under The Influence.” Based on what they’ve been posting about disagreements over the playlist (Fugazi, y’all?), it’s sure to be hilarious.

“Married to the Music” airs from 9 to 10 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, and you can listen here. And in further news from their respective musical orbits, the first Tres Chicas show in many moons happens April 24 at the Cary Theatre; while Skillet plays with Patty Hurst Shifter March 29 at Slim’s.


UPDATE (2/19/15) — The playlist, interspersed with much good-natured banter and laughter, went like this:

Tres Chicas, “Desire”
Verbena, “Hey, Come On”
X, “Around My Heart”
Sam Cooke, “Jesus Gave Me Water”
Mountain, “Mississippi Queen”
T.Rex, “Lean Woman Blues”
Van Halen, “Jamie’s Crying”
Dirty Little Heaters, “Mexico Way”
Finger, “Shipwreck Dress”
Goner, “Battleground Park”
Ace Frehley, “New York Groove”
Geraldine Fibbers, “Jolene”
Firehose, “In Memory of Elizabeth Cotton”
Elizabeth Cotton, “Freight Train”
Ray Charles, “What Would I Do Without You”
Neko Case, “Calling Cards”
Pretenders, “2000 Miles”

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Hello in there: More From UT Press

PrineEddie“Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown” was published in the fall of 2012 as the second book in University of Texas Press’ American Music Series (following Don McLeese’s “Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”), and it’s taken a while for us to get it going. As originally envisioned, we’re supposed to be putting out four AMS titles a year — two every spring, two every fall. Some right fine books have come out on Merle Haggard in 2013 and the Flatlanders in 2014, but we haven’t been able to maintain that schedule. Finally, however, we’ve found our footing enough that the pace of publication is about to pick up.

First off, the next American Music Series book coming out will be “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” by my fellow North Carolina music journalist Eddie Huffman. The official publication date is March 15, and it’s our series’ first book to come out in a hardcover version (also, it’s the first with an actual photograph of the subject on the cover). I was one of this book’s primary editors and the process wasn’t always easy. As Eddie writes of me in the book’s acknowledgements, tongue planted firmly in cheek, “He and I are probably both glad he won’t have to ask me ‘How are the rewrites coming?’ next time we cross paths at Cat’s Cradle or the PNC Arena.”

UTPressLogoBut my peskiness and his hard work paid off with a book we’re all quite proud of. And so far, the early pre-release response has been gratifying indeed. “In Spite of Himself” picked up a very fine review in Publishers Weekly, which also named it one of this spring’s most-anticipated books. Kirkus weighed in with a nice review, too, and there are a number of other reviews and reading-type events in the works as well. Eddie’s blog will be the place to keep up with all of that, so bookmark it. I think Eddie did a fantastic job on this book, and I hope you’ll like it.

Beyond that, here’s what else is on the AMS schedule so far:

October 2015

“Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” by Kristin Hersh
“Los Lobos: Dream in Blue,” by Chris Morris

Spring 2016

“Madonnaland,” by Alina Simone
Mary J. Blige (title to come), by Danny Alexander

Fall 2016

T-Bone Burnett (title to come), by Lloyd Sachs

Spring 2017

Chrissie Hynde (title to come), by Adam Sobsey

To be scheduled

Tom Jones (title to come), by Jon Langford

The book on the list I’m most excited about is “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt” by Kristin Hersh, leader of the band Throwing Muses and one of Chesnutt’s closest friends. I was blown away when I saw her manuscript because it’s spine-tinglingly brilliant, the best book of any sort I’ve read in years. Seriously, it gave me chills. I’m thrilled to be a part of that one, and I can’t wait for everyone else to read it.

Meanwhile, you might notice that yours truly is not on the AMS schedule anywhere. But I do have a book coming out on UT Press in October, one I think turned out really well. It’s called “Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel,” which I co-wrote with Asleep at the Wheel founder and guiding light Ray Benson. I’ll have more to say about this project later, but for now there’s a bit more about it here.

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Ryan’s Grammy report

 

RyanGrammyLossWhen it comes to Grammy Awards, our man Ryan Adams has a mixed track record. He’s quite adept at scoring nominations, including this year; but for all that, he has yet to actually win one of the darned things. And it looks like he’ll have to wait another year for his breakthrough, because he’s coming up empty so far at this year’s awards. Most of the Grammys were presented at the pre-telecast “Premiere Ceremony,” from which Ryan emerged 0 for 2 — losing rock performance to Jack White (which I expected), and rock song to Paramore (I expected him to lose, but not to them).

Grammy57He’s got one more shot, at rock album. But given the competition — Beck, Black Keys, Tom Petty, U2 — he’s the longest of longshots there, too. Meantime, I’m live-blogging the festivities here, so do drop in. Ryan, it seems, is not the only North Carolina native striking out tonight.

UPDATE: Well, Ryan also didn’t win rock album, which went to Beck’s Morning Phase, leaving him 0-for-7 lifetime at the Grammys. The rest of North Carolina fared no better, going o-for-14 on the night; even Eric Church didn’t take any of his four nominations in the country categories.

ADDENDUM (2/10/2015): This probably made Ryan really glad he’s not more famous than he already is.

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One good Ryan deserves another

LoseringShowWhen we did the first “Losering” tribute show back in May 2013, singer/songwriter Jeff Mullins didn’t just play, he also filmed all of that night’s performances for posterity. And he’s gone back and edited them in anticipation of the upcoming “Losering 2: The Songs of Ryan Adams” (happening April 11 at Deep South the Bar in beautiful downtown Raleigh). Here’s the first clip, in which Ryan “Showtime” Kennemur throws down a right nice version of the Faithless Street track “If He Can’t Have You.” Check it out, along with the rest of the playlist from that night here — and get tickets soon for “Losering 2,” because it will probably sell out again.

 

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False alarms

So yesterday, a friend of mind forwarded me the following alert from the online concert-tracker Songkick:


 

DRADeepSouth


“Ha!,” my friend noted in an accompanying one-word message. “Ha,” indeed.

Ryan doing a show anywhere in Raleigh would be enormous news, given that he’s not played his former hometown in close to a decade. But I fear I must burst that bubble, because it seems that Songkick assumed Ryan himself will be the bill for our April 11 tribute show, “Losering 2: The Songs of Ryan Adams.” As Deep South’s John Booker chided in a Facebook posting:

Losering2You’re going to give some nice Raleighites heart attacks. Get better at the internet, please. And to anyone that saw our event listing or [this] graphic and actually thought that to mean Ryan is coming to town (and playing our 100 cap room), bless your heart.  ;)

John sent Songkick the requisite correction-request email on Saturday afternoon. Twenty-four hours later, however, Songkick’s erroneous listing is still up. I guess those folks must not work weekends. (NOTE: It finally got changed Monday afternoon.)

Anyway, I’d like to note for the record that Ryan would be more than welcome to attend. But let’s not go spreading rumors that aren’t going to pan out. Even if Ryan weren’t on a self-imposed Raleigh hiatus, he’s scheduled to be 2,500 miles away that weekend playing the Coachella Festival in California.

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