Posts Tagged With: Americana Music Association

Launching “A Life in Pursuit”

Just in time for this week’s Americana Music Festival & Conference in Nashville — where T Bone Burnett is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech — dig our latest American Music Series title, which is about that very artist and penned by the estimable Chicago-based scribe Lloyd Sachs. Officially, “T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit” won’t be published until after the calendar rolls over to October. But it’s already picking up reviews, and here is an excerpt.

Lloyd and my University of Texas Press editorial colleague Casey Kittrell will be in Nashville to unveil “A Life in Pursuit” with some events at the Americana festival (which was also where I launched “Losering” four years ago). This brings us to an even 10 titles for the series. Meanwhile, “A Life in Pursuit” should already be on the shelf of your favorite retail establishment wherever fine books are sold. And of course, you can order it online from the usual places.

ADDENDUM (9/23/2016): Here is Mr. Burnett’s Americanafest keynote address.

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I’m your man

When I go to a convention, I’m usually there to cover it — typically for the News & Observer but occasionally for someone else. Coming to Nashville for this week’s Americana Music Association Festival & Conference has been different because I’m here in a marketing capacity to launch “Losering.” As part of the N&O’s financial struggles, the paper’s employees have to take unpaid furlough weeks this quarter. I chose mine to coincide with AMA so I could focus on book matters. That’s been good, but it also feels weird not to be filing AMA dispatches for my work blog.

So I did my first reading the other day, on the mezzanine of the AMA conference hotel, and it went well. About 15 people came, paid attention and asked questions; and we sold into double figures on books (thanks to Nashville’s Parnassus Books). Some of the people who came, I didn’t even know. Every writer has war stories about readings they’ve done where the only attendees were friends or relatives; and as glad as you are to see them, it’s even better when strangers come because then you feel like you’re making progress. Still, we’re grateful when anybody at all shows up.

I guess you could say I’m here on behalf of UT Press, too. My American Music Series colleague Don McLeese did a reading for his Dwight Yoakam book (at the Country Music Hall of Fame, no less). So I put on my co-editor’s hat and introduced him, talking a bit about the series. I’ve connected with a few other scribes at the conference, and we’ve had some really good discussions about potential future titles. Here’s hoping they continue on-course.

Another writer who did a reading at AMA was Sylvie Simmons, whose “I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen” is just out and earning raves in all the right places. Of course I’m green with envy — this is the kind of New York Times acclaim every author dreams about, and her book is also in amazon’s top-100 — but not resentful. Simmons is much-beloved in the rock-write world, and she has definitely earned the acclaim. What I’ve read so far of  “I’m Your Man” is great, and Simmons went through quite an odyssey getting the book done. At her reading, she broke out a ukulele to do a lovely rendition of Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat,” a very charming touch that made me feel awkward about the stammery reading I’d done the day before. But we endeavor to persevere.

I was proud I could give Simmons a copy of “Losering,” and she was kind enough to accept it with enthusiasm. A cool thing about participating in something like AMA is seeing your name in the event program alongside people you admire, musicians as well as other writers; it’s probably the equivalent of getting the late-season call up to the big leagues for the proverbial cup of coffee, but a thrill nevertheless. And after Simmons’ reading, as folks were standing around in clusters making plans for Friday evening’s shows, two people who hadn’t been at my reading came up to me with copies of “Losering” they wanted signed.

That was pretty danged cool. And so was this, the first local review to turn up in the Triangle. On we go…

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Remembering the “Summer of ’69” at the Ryman

Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium figures into Ryan’s story as site of one of his most infamous onstage meltdowns, the “Summer of ’69” incident. Reports vary as to just what happened that night in October 2002, when Ryan played the former home of the Grand Ole Opry. But it started with somebody in the crowd keeping up a line of heckling that culminated with a mocking call for the mid-’80s Bryan Adams hit. Ryan got angry, words were exchanged and the heckler was either thrown out or moved to a seat farther from the stage, with Ryan reportedly giving the guy his money back.

Critic Peter Cooper reported on the incident in his review of the show in the Nashville Tennessean (visible here), which went out over the wire and caused a minor sensation that rippled far and wide. For a while back in Ryan’s former hometown, it became fashionable to yell out “Summer of ’69” at shows in Raleigh, as a mocking stand-in for “Freebird.” And Ryan’s alternative-country peer Robbie Fulks, who is always up for a joke, offered to reimburse the ticket price for anyone who made Ryan mad enough to get themselves thrown out of a show. A decade later, it’s still the one thing even non-fans seem to know about Ryan.

In one of his online post-mortems about the incident, Ryan later claimed that Cooper made the whole thing up for the purposes of sensationalism (which I don’t believe). He also had some harsh words for the Ryman, the fabled cradle of country music, swearing he’d never play there again (nevertheless, he has). See Chapter 15 in “Losering” for more on this. Nobody asked me, but I thought Ryan could have defused the whole thing by working up a speed-metal version of “Summer of ’69” to break out for hecklers; sort of like the black metal “16 Days” he did onstage last year. Oh well.

I don’t know where Ryan was on Wednesday night, but Cooper was back at the Ryman — onstage, one of several-dozen performers playing the Americana Music Association awards show. I’d never been to the Ryman before, so I had a fine time wandering around drinking the place in. It’s not too long on creature comforts, and the seating is hard wooden pews (it is a former church, after all). Nevertheless, the Ryman has a living, breathing vibe you can’t help but get caught up in, imagining all the legends who have played there over the years. The Opry  broadcasts moved elsewhere long ago, but here is where that spirit still lives.

I would have been content seeing anything at the Ryman just to go there, but man, did I get lucky. The AMA show was the stuff of dreams, a fantasy all-star revue: Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, John Hiatt, Rodney Crowell, Brandi Carlile, Alabama Shakes, Guy Clark, Punch Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jason Isbell…On and on.

It left me wanting to hear more from pretty much all of them, but still — wow. Coolest live event I’ve been to in recent memory. Highlights included the Punch Brothers’ acoustic skitter, as appropriate for a conservatory as a folk festival; the always-wondrous Thompson, one of the few guitarists I’d dare mention in the same breath as Doc Watson; and Alabama Shakes, who I’m still not completely sold on, but what a voice.

Best of all was the all-hands-on-deck finale, a version of “The Weight” led by Amy Helm in tribute to her late great father Levon. Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard blew the place out with her verse, but Raitt’s more restrained closing verse was even better, ringing loud and clear up to the heavens. I was misting up by the end, and I don’t think I was the only one.

ADDENDUM (2/9/2017): Ryan’s version of the incident.

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AMA-bound — Nashville, here I come

So I’m off to Nashville this week to attend the Americana Music Association Festival & Conference, which is exciting. For one thing, I’ve never been and  every AMA regular I know swears by it as a fantastic event — and this year’s lineup does indeed look stellar. People have described AMA as a less-overwhelming version of South By Southwest; and as much as I love SXSW, it certainly has grown to insane, almost unmanageably huge proportions in recent years.

I’m also excited because AMA represents the “official” (whatever that means) launch for “Losering.” I’m doing my first reading for the book on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 3:30 p.m. on the Legislative Terrace of the Downtown Nashville Sheraton.

AMA will be a coming-out party of sorts for the UT Press American Music Series, because my colleague Don McLeese will do a reading from his Dwight Yoakam book at noon Friday, Sept. 14, at the Country Music Hall of Fame. So if anybody reading this is headed for AMA, please feel free to drop in on either reading. Or even both.

Down the road a bit, I’ll be doing another reading at the Texas Book Festival, Oct. 27-28 at the State Capitol in Austin. The lineup for that is being announced today, so check that here.

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The waiting is the hardest part

I am starting to learn that “publication date” in the book world is a rather fluid concept. Earlier this year, UT Press set the publication date for “Losering” as Sept. 5. But when I asked about scheduling readings for that same week, they were aghast. Apparently, publication date means “available for shipping” rather than actually in stores. Just to be on the safe side, they advised me not to schedule anything until October.

Eventually we compromised on a series of readings commencing Sept. 27 in Raleigh (followed by Sept. 28 in Chapel Hill and Oct. 4 in Durham), preceded by a mid-September launch at the Americana Music Association festival in Nashville. There’s other stuff pegged to September as well, including excerpts in the N&O and American Songwriter magazine. But at a certain point, that Sept. 5 release date turned into Sept. 15, leading me to fret about the AMA reading set for Sept. 13. Would books be ready by then? If not, gulp.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. UT Press sent out an announcement via Twitter on Aug. 13 that “Losering” was “in-house and ready to ship!” People who pre-ordered it started getting their copies in the mail shortly after that (thank you, Morgan McGuire!), and I’ve also heard from a few folks who have seen it in bookstores.

Best of all, however, was something very cool that happened on amazon. For a wonderful but regrettably brief period one recent evening, “Losering” nestled into the top-100. Not the overall top-100 (I wish!), just amazon’s listing of “music biographies.” Still, I was thrilled with the company. “Losering” came to rest at No. 73 — right behind Dylan and ahead of Elvis. It didn’t last long, of course, but that’s why screengrabs were invented.

So will that be the commercial peak on this thing? A few minutes posed with the gods weeks several before the actual publication date? Maybe, maybe not. Stay tuned!…

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