Posts Tagged With: Elvis Presley

Grammy love for the Wheel, but not Ryan Adams

Grammy2016In the media blitz that accompanied the release of DRA 1989 back in September, there was some hyperbolic speculation about Grammy Awards — that the album might get Ryan Adams a few nominations, maybe even for album of the year to set up a Grammy showdown against Taylor Swift’s original 1989. But that turned out to be wishful thinking.

Grammy nominations are out today and Swift checks in with seven total, including the categories of record, song and (yes) album of the year. So she certainly did her part — but Ryan, alas, did not make the cut. He didn’t pick up any nominations this go-round, which means he’ll have to wait at least another year to win his first Grammy (Ryan has been nominated seven times since 2001 but has yet to win one).

AATWKingEven if Ryan wasn’t nominated this year, however, a handful of others from North Carolina were, most notably Fayetteville-raised hip-hop star J. Cole and Carolina Chocolate Drops co-founder Rhiannon Giddens. You can find a recap of North Carolina-connected nominations here.

On a personal level, meanwhile, there is a bit of Grammy news in my book-related world. My “Comin’ Right at Ya” co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson’s Asleep at the Wheel is up for best recording package with his group’s third and latest Bob Wills tribute album Still The King: Celebrating The Music Of Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys, alongside albums by Florence + the Machine, Snoop Dogg, Alagoas and the late Elvis Presley.

The Grammys will be presented on Feb. 15 in Los Angeles. If the Wheel wins, this would be the group’s first since 2000 (which was in this same category — for another Wills tribute, 1999’s Ride With Bob) and 10th overall. To read about the star-crossed night when Asleep at the Wheel won that very first Grammy way back in 1979, click the EXCERPTS link here.



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Somewhere betwixt and between Shania Twain and Bob Dylan

Oh, the peculiar things you find on the interwebs. Like “Losering” turning up on GutsyBooks, a site I’ve never heard of. But GutsyBooks has a promising statement of purpose right at the top of the page: “We crawl the web for the best books and rank them using a language processing algorithm.” Okay, then.

The site breaks it down by category, ranking “The Best Bioelectricity Books,” “The Best Network Programming Books” and so on. One GutsyBooks list is “The Best Country Music Books,” where my book comes in at No. 17 with a score of 0.71; which means…well, you tell me because I have nary a clue.

There’s nothing about that on the site, or anywhere else I could find in a few minutes of searching online. But “best” and “language processing algorithm” imply that the ranking is based on worthiness rather than popularity, right? So is that algorithm taking stock of what people are writing about books online, or the books themselves? And is that ranking fixed, or changing? Your guess is as good as mine.

While I have no idea what that 0.71 means, I can tell you that it’s just a fraction of the top score — the 3.64 earned by Chely Wright’s 2011 memoir. It’s also well behind books by Shania Twain, Kenny Rogers, Pamela DesBarres and George Klein, a member of the late Elvis Presley’s “Memphis Mafia.”

My score does, however, come in 0.14 ahead of “Lyrics: 1962-2001” — by some dude named Bob Dylan (No. 23, at 0.57). Ya just gotta love it.


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The NC Writers Network conference

I spent this weekend as a faculty member at the NC Writers Network Fall Conference, which was a most pleasant affair. Saturday afternoon, I did a reading from “Losering” on a bill with five other faculty authors, which was very cool even if I felt totally outclassed by poet Alice Osborn’s Darth Vader meditation. And Sunday, I co-taught a music-writing class with Peter Holsapple, co-leader of The dB’s, which was great for two reasons. First, he brought along a guitar, which lightened my teaching load considerably. And second, it was a thrill to work with Peter because The dB’s have always been such a major part of my musical constellation. I’ve pretty much written a book’s worth of stuff about them over the years (hmm…).

We had a good group of students, and they were interested in everything from how to describe music on the printed page to how to get published (songs as well as prose). We discussed various legal, copyright and “fair use” issues, which I know a bit about from the Ryan book. I tried to give pointers on how to approach concert reviews to capture the experience for readers. And I borrowed Peter’s copy of Lester Bangs’ “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung” to read one of my favorite passages aloud — the concluding paragraph of Bangs’ 1977 essay “Where Were You When Elvis Died?”

If love truly is going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each other’s objects of reverence. I thought it was Iggy Stooge, you thought it was Joni Mitchell or whoever else seemed to speak for your own private, entirely circumscribed situation’s many pains and few ecstasies. We will continue to fragment in this manner, because solipsism holds all the cards at present: it is a king whose domain engulfs even Elvis’. But I guarantee you one thing: WE WILL NEVER AGAIN AGREE ON ANYTHING AS WE AGREED ON ELVIS. So I won’t bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you.

Still kinda gives me a chill, which also goes for the songs Peter played for us to discuss. One was “She Won’t Drive in the Rain Anymore,” the penultimate track on the excellent new dB’s album. Simultaneously intense and quiet, the song described his wife’s retreat from Katrina-ravaged New Orleans in harrowing terms, with telling details (like keeping an axe in the attic, in case one has to hack one’s way through the roof). It was a haunting, evocative portrait of resolve in the face of danger, and the price paid afterward. Peter said his dB’s co-leader Chris Stamey called that song “cinematic,” and I’d agree.

The other song he played pretty much knocked everybody’s hat in the creek. “Don’t Mention the War” (which Peter wrote for the Radio Free Song Club) starts out describing Lonnie, everybody’s favorite uncle until he went off to war. Then it turns into as vivid a description of PTSD as I’ve ever heard:

Short of temper, slow to respond
Overthinking til half his mind is gone
Too sad and too mad to tell jokes anymore
And he takes lots of trips to the liquor store
Passes out on our couch, that’s when he dreams
You can tell when he jumps and he cusses and screams
And he sweats and he shouts and turns white as a sheet
And he gives off a smell that’s like old rotten meat
And he opens his eyes he’s still seeing what’s dead
And he’s trying to get back on our couch in his head

We all sat, transfixed. Afterward, Peter said this one was pretty much all fiction, even though it was scarily believable. Now that’s writing.

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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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