Posts Tagged With: Fleetwood Mac

“Solo Sounds” — Ryan Adams songs as you’ve never heard them

SoloSounds.jpgA few months back, I heard from Scott Ambrose Reilly, an old friend I first met many long eons ago back when he was managing roots-rock madman Mojo Nixon and answering to the name “Bullethead.” Nowadays, he’s involved in a very cool and offbeat new music series called Solo Sounds, which digitally releases cover versions of classic albums with the songs remade as solo instrumentals. His partner is longtime roots-rock god Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, and each Solo Sounds project comes with an unexpected twist — Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours as played on cello, Bob Marley’s Legend on marimba, Squirrel Nut Zippers co-founder Jimbo Mathus rendering the classic 1984 Replacements album Let It Be as solo blues guitar and so forth.

Scott told me they wanted to give Ryan Adams the Solo Sounds treatment with a set of his songs transposed to piano, an instrument Ryan rarely plays. So they came to me for input on which of his albums to cover, and that turned out to be a deceptively hard decision. The obvious choices would have been either Ryan’s 2001 commercial high-water mark Gold, or Whiskeytown’s 1997 magnum opus Strangers Almanac; but somehow neither felt quite right for this. So I suggested a third option, a Ryan Adams album that doesn’t actually exist: 29 Cold Jacksonville Roses.

As recounted in Chapter 16 of “Losering,” 29 Cold Jacksonville Roses is my 2005 mix for Ryan — an imaginary best-of with songs cherrypicked from the three albums he released that year (Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights and 29). Now I realize that the very idea of carving these albums up like this remains the ultimate act of apostasy in some quarters of DRA super-fandom. Nevertheless, I found it a fun exercise to select a track list and running order, imagining what might have been if these songs had been recorded as a single album-length unit.

DRA2005.jpgThanks to Solo Sounds, the Spotify playlist that was 29 Cold Jacksonville Roses now exists as Selections From Ryan Adams’ 2005 Trilogy, an actual unified body of work. The artist is Bette Sussman, a pianist with a long and illustrious resume — that’s her playing piano on Whitney Houston’s 1992 version of  “I Will Always Love You,” which was one of the biggest hits of all time. She shows a spare and elegant touch throughout Selections, beginning with the Cold Roses kickoff “Magnolia Mountain” and ending with 29’s “Night Birds,” and I think these versions have a nicely elegiac feel and a lovely flow from track to track.

Selections From Ryan Adams’ 2005 Trilogy is the third Solo Sounds album that Sussman has recorded, following a set of Elton John’s greatest hits and Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” soundtrack. The project also served as her introduction to Ryan, who she was not at all familiar with before being enlisted to cover his songs.

“That’s one good thing about this project, learning about people like him,” Sussman says. “I’m now a fan of Ryan Adams and I think he’s quite brilliant. Harmonically, this was a little simpler and easier to interpret than something like ‘West Side Story,’ which was about the hardest thing ever. But I really enjoyed learning this material  and putting my spin on his songs.”

The release date is March 24, and you can check out some samples here.

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Echoes of “Strangers Almanac”

WorldCafeNot sure why this particular artifact popped up today — maybe because of all the hideous things happening in North Carolina right now, and they figured we could use a break — but public radio station WXPN has resurrected a World Cafe broadcast from 1997, “Sense of Place North Carolina: Whiskeytown.” Dating back to shortly after Mike Daly‘s arrival in the lineup as a sideman, it features about three minutes of excruciating small talk followed by performances of five songs: “16 Days,” “Somebody Remembers the Rose,” “Too Drunk to Dream,” “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart” and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”

This was recorded at WXPN during the Strangers Almanac tour, not much more than a month before Phil Wandscher’s departure from Whiskeytown. Not surprisingly, the vibe is…tense. Check it out here.

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The Texas Book Festival: Rockin’, rollin’ and what-not

I must confess that I had some misgivings about how things would go for me at the Texas Book Festival. First, my presentation was at a bar — and based on past experience, book-type events in bars just don’t seem to go too well. Second, it was outdoors on the bar’s back patio on a chilly night when temperatures would dip into the 40s. And third, it wasn’t clear we’d actually be able to sell any books because there was no cash register set up at the start of the event. A TBF volunteer announced that someone had been sent to fetch one, but they were running late because…their car had struck a deer. Only in Texas.

Despite all that, it went great. I’m terrible at guessing crowd numbers, but there appeared to be about 75 people gathered at Shangri-La to hear Sylvie Simmons, Ken Caillat and me talk about our respective tomes. There was only 45 minutes for the three of us, so Sylvie had to leave her ukulele at home. But she promises to have it with her Tuesday when she’ll do a reading at Waterloo Records in Austin; and with Leonard Cohen himself scheduled to play in Austin on Wednesday, there might even be a celebrity appearance.

But back to Saturday, which was great fun. Book festivals are a very cool part of the book-publishing rodeo. You get to strut around wearing a badge, feeling as if you deserve to be there, which is an ego boost I’d recommend. Most of the TBF happens in and around the state capitol building, so I went to some other presentations during the afternoon — including a very moving one by my fellow University of Texas alumnus John Schwartz, about his family memoir “Oddly Normal.”

I also got a peek at the “Speaker’s Apartment” inside the capitol building, where the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives used to live. It’s a fairly palatial flat, and TBF had it set up as author check-in spot and hangout salon. Several of us were cooling our heels in the parlor Saturday afternoon when an older gentleman wearing a suit and Texas flag tie waltzed in and announced he’d lived there 40-some years before when he was speaker. He even had brochures about himself to pass out, and he asked if anyone wanted their pictures taken with him. It was sweet, but also a touch sad.

Out on the capitol grounds, I did some wandering about, taking the festival in and having the same experience I always do when I’m in Austin, which is kind of the world’s largest small town. And while it wasn’t surprising to bump into fellow festival author Joe Nick Patoski (there to plug his fine new book about the Dallas Cowboys), it was surprising to bump into Rush, who I’d not laid eyes on since we were in the same summer Spanish class at Austin Community College in 1983; and Laura, a pal who ran with the same show-going crowd I did back in mid-’80s Austin, and who I don’t think I’d seen in a decade. I did some networking around the festival, too, and I might have some news soon about future projects.

After a brief drop-in at the TBF cocktail party at the plush offices of Texas Monthly, it was on to dinner at El Azteca, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Austin. Had a nice crowd there, too, including Dean Dauphinais — a friend down visiting from Detroit, whose name you’ll find in the “acknowledgements” of “Losering.”

As for the book event, it wasn’t the usual reading. The three of us sat with moderator Raoul Hernandez and took his questions, plus a few from the audience. As usual, Sylvie was the big draw (she does have a New York Times best-seller, after all), but there was plenty of interest and attention for all three of us. And by the time we were done, the cash register was in the house and hooked up.

It’s all good.

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The Shangri-La that is Texas Book Festival

So as I’ve mentioned the last few days, this weekend is the big Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas (a.k.a., the South By Southwest of the book world), which I am very honored to be a part of.  My bit happens at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at a joint in East Austin called Shangri-La, as part of the festival’s “Lit Crawl.” Sylvie Simmons (author of that fabulous Leonard Cohen bio that’s all the rage this fall), Ken Caillat (author of a scintillating Fleetwood Mac tell-all) and yours truly will discuss our respective books — and whatever else moderator Raoul Hernandez brings up. Y’all come.

Meantime, here’s another “Losering” interview, this one from Saturday’s Austin American Statesman.

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