Posts Tagged With: Come Pick Me Up

The final countdown: “16 Days” vs. “Come Pick Me Up”

16CPMU.jpgAfter six rounds and 2,000-plus online fan votes, it’s come to this: the “BEST DRA SONG 2017” has a final matchup for all the marbles between a pair of No. 1 seeds, “16 Days” (from Whiskeytown’s 1997 masterpiece Strangers Almanac) and the Heartbreaker standard “Come Pick Me Up.”

There were other dark horses I was pulling for, including “Jacksonville” and “Dear Chicago.” But it’s hard to argue with the final pairing of these two particular signature tunes in the Ryan Adams universe — especially since they’re both from my favorite era of his, the Whiskeytown/early solo period that is the focus of “Losering.” I love both songs, but ultimately…I’ve got to cast my vote for “16 Days.”

Voting will be open through Saturday (June 24). Vote here; check the complete bracket so far below, or here; and for more on the methodology, see this interview with poll-meister Christopher S. Bradley. Also below, Christopher’s compilation of some of the comments and complaints he has received via social media.

ADDENDUM (6/25/2017): And here are the final results. My choice didn’t win, but I’m not complaining. Well, maybe just a little.

CPMU16D.jpgDRA BEST SONG FINALS RESULTS!!!!

Well y’all, after 322 people cast their votes in the final matchup, the winner, by a landslide, is Come Pick Me Up!

Many of you predicted this would at least be in the finals early on, and being one of his best known songs, it was. Here’s the final bracket.

Thanks again to everyone who participated and gave comments of support and constructive criticism along the way. Special thanks to David Menconi and Chris Migliaccio.

Maybe next June we will try this again, but mix it up a little ūüėČ.
For now, I will post the results of this year’s bracket to a yet to be finished blog.

 

 

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“Garbage”-Some RAA commenter

“These aren’t even his best songs.”-A bunch of unoriginal commenters

“Where is *insert unreleased track*, that’s his best song.”- A bunch of snobs.

“Where is *insert track that lost*, I love that song.”-Pretty much everyone

“This is torture.”-Random DRA Superfans commenter.

“This is like choosing between two children.” -A bigger bunch of unoriginal commenters.

“How could YOU pick song A over song B.” -Several commenters too lazy to pay attention for the past month

“How does this even work, what’s a bracket?”- People from other countries where people go to college to learn, not play/watch sports.

“The Russians hacked the voting.”- Everyone living a
continuous nightmare from November 8, 2016 -Present

“Thanks for doing this.”-Those of you I actually like.

“Jason Isbell sucks!”- People without ears

 

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Final Four in the ‚ÄúBEST DRA SONG 2017‚ÄĚ

The “BEST DRA SONG 2017” listener poll has gone pretty much exactly according to Hoyle, in that it’s now down to the last four songs — and all four No. 1 seeds have made it into the Final Four. I’d call that an indication of how solid a job that superfan poll-meister Christopher S. Bradley did with seeding the bracket and putting this thing together.

So anyway, it’s come down to “16 Days” from the Whiskeytown bracket matched up against the Ashes & Fire track “Dirty Rain” (winner of the 2011-Present bracket) in one semifinal; and in the other, the Cardinals’ Cold Roses track “Let It Ride” facing off against Heartbreaker bracket champion “Come Pick Me Up,” which only narrowly beat out “Oh My Sweet Carolina” in the Elite Eight round. I’m pulling for “16 Days” versus “Come Pick Me Up” in the final, because those two songs both come from the heart of my favorite “Losering” era. But we’ll see.

Voting for this round will close at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday (June 21). Vote here and check the updated bracket here, or below.

 

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No Depression in Whiskeytown

Opinions shouldn’t be static or carved in stone, and two decades past Whiskeytown’s prime I do sometimes catch myself wondering: Were they really all that? And pretty much every time, something will cross my field of vision that feels like the universe answering back with a reminder: Um, yeah.

For example, there’s a vintage video that surfaced a few days ago, posted by Michael Niebuhr — the superfan behind the very fine and almost comprehensive archival Ryan Adams fan site Come Pick Me Up. This video is from a Whiskeytown show that captures an optimistic moment in time, the St. Louis date of the “No Depression Tour” sponsored by the magazine; April 5, 1997, and it’s kind of an only-in-St.-Louis artifact right down to Ryan’s nasty set-opening shout-out to Post-Dispatch critic Chris Dickinson over an unflattering Uncle Tupelo comparison (plus the onstage dancing cameo by Beatle Bob).

This is from the period that is pretty much the heart of “Losering,” shot when Whiskeytown’s major-label debut Strangers Almanac was recorded but not yet released. And even though Strangers wouldn’t be out for another three months, Ryan already seemed to be getting a little bored with it; that night’s set included just three Strangers songs to go with two from 1996’s Faithless Street, plus a cover of Iggy and the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and three “lost” songs that I don’t believe ever turned up on any other album before or since.

The audio quality isn’t great, and there’s not a lot of variety to the visuals. Nevertheless, you still get the idea of what a wonderfully shambolic mess of ragged glory the Whiskeytown live experience could be back then. I do, anyway. Your mileage may vary, but seeing this made my tired old heart go pitter-pat.

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Ryan Adams, “Flying Dracula”

It’s been years since Ryan Adams has lived in (or even visited) the setting for¬†“Losering,”¬†his old pre-fame stomping grounds¬†of Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill. A lot has changed¬†in the years since Ryan has¬†been gone, but a few traces of his¬†time here linger into the present day. And below is¬†an artifact, if you could call off-color graffiti an artifact.

This is written on a bathroom wall of The Cave, a cool subterranean nightspot on the main Franklin Street drag over in Chapel Hill whose co-owners include¬†Van Alston¬†(Ryan’s “Come Pick Me Up” co-writer).¬†It is of uncertain provenance and looks¬†like something Ryan could have written himself,¬†based on the handwriting and how often he has¬†used variations of “Dracula”¬†as a pseudonym over the years — including “Sad Dracula” and, going way back, “Count Chocula.” And for a limited time, you can get this on a T-shirt, red print on black. They’re gong for $20 while they last. Email¬†MarkConnor@mac.com to check on availability.

FlyingDracula

 

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Let It Telluride

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.15.45 AMMore than once in the years since Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams has declared that he hates country music and always has — a sentiment that I don’t really believe, even though he probably meant it at the time he said it (because he usually does). Be that as it may, apparently Ryan does not feel the same way about bluegrass. At last weekend’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado, he was booked for what had initially been billed as a solo performance. Instead, he appeared with the Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm backing him up. The set was well-received, and Ryan tweeted enthusiastically about it afterward¬† (“Bluegrass is alive and wandering the hills like a blue moon yeti”).

There was not an online live stream of the show, to the disappointment of fans elsewhere who wanted to watch and listen. But below are a few fan-shot videos from the performance, of Dio’s “Holy Diver” and his own longtime signature “Come Pick Me Up.” Check them out while you can because I fully expect them both to disappear soon.

Meanwhile, if Ryan is really in a bluegrass frame of mind and maybe wanted to play more of it while breaking his North Carolina boycott… well, sir, IBMA’s World of Bluegrass in his old hometown of Raleigh is a great time. And it just so happens the Stringdusters are IBMA regulars, too, having played the festival two of the three years since it moved to Raleigh from Nashville. Just sayin’.

ADDENDUM (7/25/2016): Also, here they are at the Newport Folk Festival.

 

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Going deep on Come Pick Me Up, the new DRA archive

CPMUA number of Ryan Adams sites have come and gone in recent years, and you can find some of them at the Ryan Adams Reference Library link above. But a new one that shows particular promise in the online DRA fan landscape is Come Pick Me Up. Subtitled “The Ryan Adams Archive,” Come Pick Me Up is a worthy successor to the old RAA (which lives on in Facebook form) and Answering Bell (which is no more but was an invaluable fact-checking resource back when I was writing “Losering”). It’s also a nice compliment to Mega-Superior Gold.

Come Pick Me Up is the work of Michael Niebuhr, a dedicated and avid Ryan Adams fan from Copenhagen. He writes:

I’m a longtime Ryan fan going back to Whiskeytown’s “Strangers Almanac,” which is probably still my favorite album of his. I’m also an amateur songwriter (though non-practicing for the past five years due to parenthood), and I do software development for a living. So the actual coding of the site is a no-brainer. The only effort is the time that goes into adding the data. It is a big project for sure.

The idea is to cover everything: reviews, releases, recordings, interviews, collectibles, news, writings. I started the site in October with a group of “Superfans” — Luke O’Sheary, Thomas Bauer, Trond Andersen and Darren Combs — who supplied the initial data set (songs, shows, about 700 setlists), before I decided to take it solo after a few weeks. I aim to respect the wishes of Ryan and his organisation(s), and that’s why there’s no news about his divorce or girlfriends (which is the same story every time anyway), or unreleased recordings/bootlegs. I’m contemplating whether a forum will be a good idea, or just a place to slag the poor Shining.

As the site takes shape, it’s dawning on me how much material is out there. I want to “sweep Youtube” for Ryan content and do the same for concert reviews and photos. The possibility of connecting it all is too tempting not to reach for. I hope this site will grow into something great, a go-to source for Ryan fans — maybe even a place Ryan himself will check from time to time, such as to see what he played the last time he visited a city.

Eventually, there’ll be a credit section with a big “thank you” to Answering Bell, RAA and everybody who’s gone before, tracking the shows and setlists over the years. And to the tapers. And Ryan himself, of course. Somehow he never gets enough credit.

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Fifteen years of “Heartbreaker”

HeartbreakerHere’s another reminder of just how much time has slipped away since the Whiskeytown era: Today marks exactly 15 years since the release of Heartbreaker, Ryan Adams’ first solo album. Even though the band hadn’t “officially” broken up at that point, and its in-limbo album Pneumonia wouldn’t be released until the following May, I’ve still¬†always thought of Heartbreaker as the official end of Ryan’s Whiskeytown period. He¬†was certainly talking about Whiskeytown in the past tense in the No Depression magazine feature I wrote for Heartbreaker’s release. And a year later, the mainstream was in the process of finally discovering Ryan with his second (and inferior, at least to me) solo album Gold.

Here’s a pretty solid track-by-track dissection.¬†I am a little embarrassed to admit that, as¬†noted in chapter 12 of “Losering,”¬†my initial reaction to Heartbreaker¬†at the time was disappointment that it didn’t have any of the astounding material¬†I’d seen Ryan¬†play live during his¬†fall 1999 shows (“Hey There Mrs. Lovely,” “Oh My Sweet Valentine,”¬†“Born Yesterday” and other songs you can find nowadays on bootlegs like Destroyer).¬†But that feeling didn’t last because Heartbreaker was and is extraordinary — a perfect snapshot of Ryan finding himself artistically at a moment when his life and career seemed to be falling apart. I still think it’s the¬†best of his officially released solo albums, and it would have outsold Gold by multiples were there an ounce of justice in this world. At least¬†it’s the top-selling album in the history of Bloodshot Records, so¬†that’s something.

Ryan himself has had some harsh and flippant things to say about Heartbreaker over the years, including this dismissively withering 2006 self-assessment:

If you are a redneck or want to be disappointed with me buy Heartbreaker. But it’s utter shit and I didn’t mean a word of it.

Maybe he really meant that. But Ryan says a lot of things, and I think¬†it matters more¬†that a decade and a half later, he¬†still plays Heartbreaker tunes like “Come Pick Me Up” and “Oh My Sweet Carolina” onstage pretty much every night. And it seems as though his feelings toward Heartbreaker have softened just¬†a bit. In the wee small hours of this morning, Ryan¬†tweeted this:

Happy 15th Anniversary, Heartbreaker!!!

You’re too long, overly earnest & a lil’ wordy but damnit you’re all mine.

That’s fair. So here’s to Heartbreaker¬†— and the ongoing hope that the heartbreak kid has¬†still got another record like that in him.

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Ryan’s Raleigh — disappearing fast…

SadlacksBefore

Sadlack’s, circa 2012.

Toward the end of “Losering,” I wrote that Ryan Adams probably wouldn’t even recognize his old hometown anymore, given how much of Raleigh has been torn down and rebuilt since Whiskeytown’s 1990s heyday. You don’t have to look any farther than the Hillsborough Street strip, Raleigh’s main drag along the northern edge of the NC State campus, to see how some of the city’s most notable Whiskeytown-era landmarks are disappearing, bulldozed to make way for fancy new real-estate projects going up.

Right across from the NC State Bell Tower is where the former Sadlack’s stood, at the corner of Hillsborough and Enterprise streets. Here it is on the right, the place where Whiskeytown first convened 20 years ago. But Sadlack’s has been gone since its last-waltz blowout this past New Year’s Eve and below is what that block looks like now, on its way to becoming a 135-room Aloft Hotel that will open sometime next summer.

SadsNov

The new Aloft Hotel rises over the grave of Sadlack’s.

 


BreweryNov

Stanhope, under construction on the block where The Brewery used to be.

About seventh-tenths of a mile west of where Sadlack’s was, The Brewery nightclub used to stand at 3009 Hillsborough Street; site of countless late and great nights with Whiskeytown, Backsliders, 6 String Drag and other cool bands from all over. After the club was torn down in 2011¬†(along with the Comet Lounge next door),¬†that block stood vacant for a couple of years, home to nothing more than weeds and parked cars. Now it’s being turned into the huge student-residential complex you see going up here on the right; called Stanhope, it’s also opening next summer.

DaisyStNov

6 Daisy Street in Raleigh, home of Lazy Stars, American Rock Highway and other bands from Ryan Adams’ distant past.

Fortunately, not quite everything has vanished. Ryan’s old residence with Tom Cushman, the Daisy Street House, is still standing just off Hillsborough Street. Here it is on the left; I parked in front of it when I went by to take the picture of the old Brewery site.

Also, former Brewery co-owner (and “Come Pick Me Up” co-writer) Van Alston is still a nightlife impressario in Raleigh, picking up musicians’ bar tabs at his current downtown joint Slim’s. In recognition of his many contributions to the music community over the years, the local alt-weekly here recently bequeathed Alston with one of its annual Indies Arts Awards — for which congratulations are in order.

Alas, something else that hasn’t changed all these years later is that Ryan remains a magnet for hecklers, even when he’s playing bigger, plusher rooms than he ever played in Raleigh; and he still doesn’t hesitate to fire back. A friend of mine knows someone who caught Ryan’s show in Boston the other night and passed along the following account of the evening:

Ryan Adams is incredibly gifted, but sober or not, still a bit of a jerk on stage. Nothing like when I first saw him play at the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street, where he put his back to audience for much of the show, and/or stood in the stage wings, in darkness, out of the view of the paying attendees. He ripped into a couple of fans last night, one of whom was right next to me. “You should write a blog to speak your mind, and join this asshole in front of me, you fucking prick!” That was typical of comments throughout the night… My friend was somehow able to isolate Adams’ snarky persona from his performance and still enjoy the event, something I wasn’t quite able to do.

Oh, Ryan…

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Ryan Adams picks up Bloodshot, while the NC Music Love Army sticks to the plan

BS20Ryan Adams released just one full-length on Bloodshot Records, but that album was a doozy — his 2000 solo debut Heartbreaker, which (as recounted in chapter 12 of “Losering”) cracked 300,000 copies in U.S. sales. That’s the Chicago-based alternative-country label’s commercial high-water mark by far, with albums by Neko Case, Justin Townes Earle and Alejandro Escovedo next in line. All these years later, Heartbreaker remains Bloodshot’s top seller even though the label’s licensing agreement for it expired last year, which means that Heartbreaker is officially out of print nowadays. That probably won’t be changing anytime soon, either. When I inquired with Ryan’s publicist about whether or not a reissue was in the works, the answer that came back was, “There are no plans that I’m aware of” (and she would know).

Nevertheless, Heartbreaker remains a big part of Bloodshot’s history. So it’s no surprise that its¬†songs dominate While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records, a two-disc Bloodshot tribute album set to be released Nov. 18. While No One Was Looking compiles 38 covers of songs from Bloodshot releases, with versions by luminaries including Ted Leo, Handsome Family, Minus Five and the regrettably named (but still quite good) Diarrhea Planet. Four songs on the track list came from Heartbreaker, more than any other album in the Bloodshot catalog:

* “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” — performed by Blitzen Trapper from Portland, Ore. (thanks, Erin!)
* “My Winding Wheel” — Seattle indie-folk duo Ivan & Alyosha
* “Come Pick Me Up” — Superchunk
* “Oh My Sweet Carolina” — San Francisco’s Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers

You can listen to the very fine Blitzen Trapper cover below, and the versions of “Sweet Carolina” and “Winding Wheel” are also both quite lovely. But the real revelation is Chapel Hill punk band Superchunk’s “Come Pick Me Up” — take a listen to the stream on Pitchfork — which revs up the original’s dirge pace to a fast and gleeful raveup (stoked by Whiskeytown alumnus Jon Wurster¬†on the drums). Covering Ryan’s Heartbreaker songs is getting to be a thing for Superchunk guitarist Mac McCaughan, who similarly recast “Oh My Sweet Carolina” with his other band Portastatic for another tribute compilation a few years back.



Even beyond the four Heartbreaker songs, Ryan casts a long shadow over the rest of While No One Was Looking. In terms of both songs and performers, the album is littered with Ryan’s former collaborators (Caitlin Cary, Alejandro Escovedo) and rivals (Robbie Fulks, Old 97s). Superchunk isn’t the only act from Ryan’s home state of North Carolina, either; there’s also Hiss Golden Messenger, Dex Romweber Duo and most of all the North Carolina Music Love Army — featuring Ryan’s old Whiskeytown bandmate Caitlin, head Backslider Chip Robinson and 6 String Drag’s Kenny Roby — turning Graham Parker’s “Stick to the Plan” into something like an ironic latterday answer to the old Kennedy campaign theme “High Hopes,” describing a certain political party’s apparent we-know-best attitude:

Don’t pay no attention to what the experts say
Too much intelligence gets in the way
Yeah it gets in the way
You know it gets in the way
And if you wanna be happy
Be like Forrest Gump everyday.

NCMLA14The NC Music Love Army has been busy this fall in conjunction with the upcoming midterm elecitons. One of the nation’s marquee contests is North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis — a brutal and interminable campaign¬†that’s on course to be the most expensive in history, with total spending expected to top a staggering $100 million. To raise spirits, awareness and turnout, the Love Army crew has been putting out new songs that can be heard here. The most notable of the new tunes is an environmental anthen called “Senator’s Lament,” in which Caitlin Cary’s fiddle features prominently. The lyrics are below.

‚ÄúSenator‚Äôs Lament‚ÄĚ

There are places in the ocean
They are dark and sacred still
We cannot reach them
But we can ruin them
With a greed no sea can fill.

Oh green mountain, her bones are older
Than the pillars of any town
But we move her with our big plans
Dig out her heart and steal her gown.

Oh Carolina, how I love you
And your ever-changing ways
I didn’t see how much I hurt you
I only hope I’m not too late.

There are children in the harvest
Their backs are bent to rain and sun
And we profit while they’re poisoned
When they fall, don’t no one come

There are places in the ocean
That are dark and sacred still
We can’t reach them, but we can leave them
And we can ask this land to forgive
We can ask this land to forgive
We can ask this land to forgive…

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