This isn’t a Ryan Adams song, but it’s one he produced and co-wrote, and it definitely bears his sonic stamp. 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.
Posts Tagged With: Butch Walker
So yeah, Ryan Adams’ self-imposed Old North State exile remains in effect, with no sign it will end anytime soon. But even if Ryan himself doesn’t come around here anymore, at least that doesn’t seem to keep any of his associates away. By the close of this coming weekend, in fact, two of his most recent production clients will have headlined shows here within the span of a week.
Following Jenny Lewis in Saxapahaw this past Monday, the next in line is onetime Marvelous 3 leader Butch Walker, who plays Durham’s Carolina Theatre on Sunday night. Ryan produced Walker’s lovely new album Afraid of Ghosts (Dangerbird Records), which (1) was released on a label run by Whiskeytown’s old manager, oddly enough; (2) is, like Lewis’ The Voyager and the most recent effort from Ethan Johns, yet another Ryan-produced record that I find vastly superior to last fall’s Ryan Adams; and (3) has kind an ironic title, given that something like a fear of old ghosts might well be what’s kept Ryan away for so long. The ghost has got me runnin’, indeed.
Anyway, a bit more verbiage about Walker from the paper can be found here.
This week will take me to Austin, Texas, for South By Southwest, the big annual music-industry hootenanny I’ve been attending for 26 years (check here for dispatches I’ll be filing for the paper). It’s a time and place that inevitably brings back memories of Whiskeytown because Austin during SXSW served as the setting for some key events in the “Losering” story, including the band’s big coming-out show in 1996 (see Chapter six); Ryan Adams making the deal for Bloodshot Records to put out his first solo record in 2000 (an event that happened in a bathroom — see Chapter 12); and the 2001 dust-up that inspired Ryan’s Gold song “Harder Now That It’s Over” (see Chapter 14).
But my most vivid personal SXSW memory of Whiskeytown is one of those small moments you remember without trying, or even really even knowing why you do. I was walking down Eigth Street in Austin’s downtown club district in 1998, when someone in a parked car waved me over. That turned out to be Jenni Sperandeo, who was then Whiskeytown’s co-manager.
“Get in,” she said. “I’ve got something you need to hear.”
So I did and she fired up a cassette tape of something Whiskeytown had recorded over Christmas; a scathing rocker that was the least twangy thing I’d ever heard them do. But it was great and I was pretty blown away. A desire to seize the tape and flee briefly flitted through my mind, an impulse I restrained. Later, however, I found myself wishing I’d made off with it. That was the first time I ever heard “Rays of Burning Light” from Whiskeytown’s Forever Valentine, one of Ryan’s greatest “lost” albums. Fifteen years later, it remains unreleased, so thank God for bootlegs.
Jenni and I talked for a bit that night before I resumed my club crawling, and in my memory the conversation was pretty upbeat. There still seemed ample cause for optimism about Whiskeytown at that point, even though Strangers Almanac hadn’t been a hit and the band was well into its revolving-door-lineup period. But they had just played a triumphant “Austin City Limits” taping that spring, and Ryan was still writing great songs. It seemed like only a matter of time before they would break through.
Alas, what none of us knew in March of 1998 was how much closer Whiskeytown was to breaking up than breaking through. Two months later, it was announced that Universal was buying PolyGram, a merger that would eventually liquidate Whiskeytown’s label and put the band into limbo; and Jenni would be out as Whiskeytown’s manager by that fall, dismissed in the wake of a semi-disastrous tour opening for John Fogerty (see Chapter 11).
All these years later, Jenni still works in the music industry. She became president of Dangerbird Records in 2012 — a label whose roster includes Fitz and the Tantrums, Butch Walker, Silversun Pickups and other notables. Her memories of Ryan and Whiskeytown are, shall we say, complicated. Not without fondness, but also rather jaundiced. When I got Jenni on the phone in 2011 to interview her about her time managing Whiskeytown, she had plenty to say, going back to Ryan begging her and Chris Roldan to manage his band almost as soon as they met.
At first I was, “You people are nuts. You’re great but you’re a kid and also crazy”…It was difficult to know who [Ryan] was at that time. He was self-mythologizing from the very beginning. Even as I was talking with him, I’d be thinking, “Well, there’s a very thick layer of bullshit on all of this except for the fact that you’re very talented.” He’d say all this shit about himself and his family and where he’d come from, a great deal of drama, but it was hard to tell if any of it was true…Me being a girl, I think he felt like he could stare soulfully into my eyes and get his way. He probably did, owing to my youngness and the stupidity of it all. Maybe a little less with Chris, but he was not as tied up with them as I was.
For all that, Jenni really believed in the band and the music. That was enough to make her willing to put up with it all.
It was challenging in some ways, but they were such a great band. What gets lost in translation about Ryan and how he ended up where he was was how great Whiskeytown was. I don’t know that he’s ever had that good a band around him, and that was the last time he had to take input from other people. I think Phil [Wandscher] gets lost a lot, he’s why they didn’t sound like just another rock-leaning alt-country band from that time. It’s not like Caitlin was a strong personality with him in that way. He encouraged her to be serious about it, and I don’t think she really was at that time. Phil provided the creative push for him there. Even now, I go see Jesse [Sykes] and Phil play and he’s amazing – and left-handed! Dude is a stunningly good guitar player, which Ryan was not. If you listen to those records, it’s that Phil piece on top of Ryan’s voice and the redeeming vocal part from Caitlin that makes it all work.
Maybe Jenni will have something else for me to listen to if I bump into her in Austin this week.
I still don’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud of this, but it does sure remind me of that tingly feeling you have when you know you are right.
A friend of mine had a funny idea for “Losering” promotion — some tongue-in-cheek “predictions” for how Ryan Adams might spend 2013. So with the aid of a crystal and Magic 8 Ball, I put together a list at his behest. Alas, things fell through with the magazine that was to run them, and they never saw the light of print. But since I hate for anything to go to waste, I present them to you below. They are quite silly, yes; still, maybe not all that far removed for what our favorite Scorpio might be up to this year…
Just because Ryan Adams didn’t release an album of new material in 2012, that doesn’t mean he was musically idle. Along with putting out a crazy huge 15-disc live box set and dropping twitter hints about getting started on a new record, Adams spent time in the studio with his wife Mandy Moore, electronic superstar deadmau5, The Lemonheads, D Generation, Butch Walker and who knows who else. None of those recordings have surfaced, but all the collaborations got us to thinking about what worlds the alt-country king might be looking to conquer in 2013. Our fearless predictions:
* After Norah Jones introduces Adams to her half-sister Anoushka Shankar at the Grammy Awards, he takes up sitar and heads in a more grandiose direction, enlisting the Polyphonic Spree and Mormon Tabernacle Choir for what he describes as a “Zen concept album that will bring Twinkies back.” The project collapses when they can’t work out the logistics of Phil Spector handling production by phone from prison.
* Adams’ pal Elton John introduces him to Liza Minnelli at the Oscars, and they hit it off. With Minnelli’s encouragement, Adams is emboldened to make his Broadway debut playing her signature role – as Sally Bowles in a revival of “Cabaret.” But the show doesn’t make it out of previews.
* Inspired by his deadmau5 collaboration, Ryan puts on his DJ Reggie hat and convinces the surviving members of Run-DMC to let him join as replacement deejay for the late Jam-Master Jay. To great acclaim, Run-DRA makes its debut at the Coachella Festival. But in-fighting leads to a lineup implosion before a scheduled headlining slot at Bonnaroo.
* Declaring that he wants to take his native North Carolina’s “FIRST IN FLIGHT” license-plate motto to its logical conclusion, Adams applies to NASA with the intention of becoming a space-shuttle pilot. Upon discovering that the shuttle program ended in 2011, he puts his disappointment aside and goes to Plan B: applying for a pilot’s job at Pan Am Airlines. Um…
* While working with Cameron Crowe on a soundtrack song, Adams meets Ennio Morricone, the legendary spaghetti-western film-score composer. Discussions ensue about Morricone and Adams working together on a soundtrack to the movie version of Adams’ yet-to-be-published novel, “Bastard Diaries of Los Angeles.” The project stalls out when nobody can find Clint Eastwood’s phone number.
So our man Ryan has spent long stretches of the past few years out of the public eye, uncharacteristically quiet on the music front. There was the breakup of the Cardinals and his Meniere’s Disease, plus who knows what else going on behind the scenes. Ashes & Fire, released one year ago this week, broke a several-year silence — and it had me wondering what might be next, fingers crossed in cautious optimism; A&F seemed like a return to form, the best thing he’d done in eons.
Well, he’s gotten busy, all right. The last few months have brought reports of Ryan producing his wife Mandy Moore; producing and playing drums in the reunited Lemonheads; and working in the studio with Tennis, Liz Phair, Butch Walker and even electronic superstar deadmau5, among others. Which is cool and all, sure, plus the sort of headline fuel that makes the rock-media world go ’round.
Still…I have to admit that I’d rather see Ryan just bear down on another record of his own. And God knows where he’s finding the time, but it appears he might be gearing up to do just that, if his Twitter feed is to be believed. This weekend, Ryan has posted a couple of pictures suggesting that he’s in the midst of pulling together material for a new album, with tantalizing verbiage:
Work. Writing songs.
Sketching the blueprints of my new record. Only a month to go.
Two more new songs today. Damn.
ADDENDUM (2/19/13): Complete list of Ryan’s extracurricular credits.