Posts Tagged With: Houses on the Hill

Season’s greetings from Ryan Adams…

…who wrote this song “Hey Parker, It’s Christmas” for then-girlfriend Parker Posey back in 2003 or so, and it even came out as a single. Very nice song, even if I’m still partial to this one. But take a listen here, or below.

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Ten years after…

DRA6805Today, June 8, marks a notable double-digit anniversary, and I ain’t talking about Nancy Sinatra’s 75th birthday. No, today makes exactly 10 long years since Ryan Adams last played his old hometown. It happened about a month after the release of Cold Roses (the first of three albums he would release in 2005), drawing a soldout crowd to Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh, and it was an evening fraught with tension — but also release and redemption. There’s plenty more about that in the closing stretch of  “Losering,” as well as in this post.

“We hope to see you again very soon,” Ryan told the audience during band bows immediately following a ragged-yet-lovely encore version of “Houses on the Hill” with his old Whiskeytown bandmate Caitlin Cary. That night, there seemed to be no reason to believe this particular show would stand as any sort of final farewell. Yet Ryan has stayed away for 3,652 days now (taking leap years into account), going out of his way to pointedly avoid North Carolina even as this year’s tour schedule has had him playing in every adjoining state. As to why, the reasons seem both mysterious and complicated. I know an area promoter who tried to book Ryan several years ago, to no avail. The answer from his management was that Ryan has stayed away intentionally because while he has “moved on” from that chapter of his life, “North Carolina has not.”

I’m still not sure what that’s supposed to mean. If there are people still nursing grudges in the greater Raleigh vicinity, they’re far, far outnumbered by the legions of fans who would love to see Ryan here. And as I wrote in the “Losering” preface, Ryan is remembered more fondly in Raleigh than he may realize. Yet he chooses to keep his distance, and so it goes. I hope the boycott ends someday, and ends well.

If it doesn’t…well, I guess we’ll always have Meymandi.

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Happy Memorial Day, from Whiskeytown

Ryan Adams grew up in a military-base town, so maybe that had something to do with why he wrote one of the best Memorial Day songs there is. So dig “Houses on the Hill,” as performed by Whiskeytown in 1998 on “Austin City Limits” — and on this day, remember the people you should…

Eisenhower sent him to war
He kept her picture in his pocket that was closest to his heart
And when he hit shore
Must have been a target for the gunman…

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“Losering: The Songs of Ryan Adams” — wish you were here

DMMCBack in Whiskeytown’s prime, I really wanted them to break through to widespread popularity, which seems a bit odd in retrospect. Sure, it would have been fun to watch from close range; but I can’t say why I was rooting for them beyond a vague belief that a large audience was going to provide some measure of validation. There was closure that only a large crowd singing along with “Sixteen Days” was going to provide.

Fittingly and belatedly, that happened last night, sort of. The fine folks at Deep South The Bar in Raleigh put together a tribute show inspired by my book, “Losering: The Songs of Ryan Adams,” and I got to emcee. And about halfway through the show, while members of the band Old Quarter were playing “Sixteen Days” — the song I thought was going to be Whiskeytown’s big breakout hit way back in 1997 — I was hollering along with everyone else in the soldout house and feeling chills about the experience.

Ghost has got me running
Away from you, away from you, awaaaaaay…

It was a truly wonderful night, very much a feeling of being among friends and fellow fans; as much a tribute to the milieu Ryan came out of as to Ryan himself. There were multiple highlights, some of which went like this:

Aaron Menconi, shortly before asking why he started that damn country band.

Aaron Menconi, shortly before asking why he started that damn country band.

The Equivocators — Featuring my dear friend Scott Huler, they kicked things off with three songs from Whiskeytown’s Faithless Street album; “Midway Park,” “Hard Luck Story” and the title track. When Scott got to the “started this damn country band” line, I coached my 18-year-old son Aaron to yell out, “Why’d you do that?”

David Teeter (from the band Martha Ann Motel) — He brought out a couple of more recent Ryan solo songs, “Shadowlands” and “Desire.” And to make the absent guest of honor seem more present, David also played the recording of the infamous Jim DeRogatis voicemail, a legendary moment in artist-critic relations. Guffaws all around.

Ryan Kennemur — Continuing in a humorous vein, Ryan gave a nod to Mr. Adams’ touchier side by belting out a bit of Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69.” Then he got down to business, and his versions of “Turn Around,” “Avenues” and especially “If He Can’t Have You” were outstanding.

John Booker and Rachel Hirsh (I Was Totally Destroying It) — Major props go to John, who did a fantastic job with booking the acts for this show. And he and his bandmate Rachel did great with four songs — “Everybody Knows,” “Call Me On Your Way Back Home,” “Don’t Be Sad” and “Firecracker.” There was an enthusiastic audience sing-along on the latter song, and John needled me a bit for not giving it and the rest of Ryan’s Gold album sufficient respect in the book. Touche! Danny Johnson, who plays in about a thousand other bands, sat in.

Bobby Bryson — I’d never heard Bobby before, and he might have played my favorite set of the night with stellar versions of “A Kiss Before I Go,” “Let It Ride” (also much audience singing along here) and “Carolina Rain.” He showed absolute command instrumentally as well as vocally, and I loved his stage presence. Afterward, he presented me with a business card carrying the slogan Songs that gently rip your heart out. I believe it.

DeepSouthCharles Marshall and Richard Bolton (Balsa Gliders) — They put a couple of Strangers Almanac-era Whiskeytown classics through some unusual paces, quieting down “Waiting to Derail” and rocking up “Avenues.” Very cool, inventive versions that they clearly put some thought into.

John Massengil, George Hage and Danny Johnson (Old Quarter) — The aforementioned “Sixteen Days” sing-along went over great. So did “Jacksonville Skyline” and a lovely reading of “Houses on the Hill.” Meg Johnson sat in on vocals (and also with Jack the Radio). Felt like being at the Brewery back in the day.

Jack the Radio — Speaking of sing-alongs, there was a raucous one on “Come Pick Me Up,” maybe the most exuberant of the night. “O My Sweet Carolina” and “Lucky Now” rounded it out.

Adam Lane and Jeff Mullins — Ryan Kennemur returned for an exceptionally sweet harmony vocal on “Desperate Ain’t Lonely” (which they rehearsed once, outside in the parking lot, and Ryan had to read the lyrics off his phone — perfect). They also offered up a couple of nice rarities, “Onslow County” and “Oh My Sweet Valentine,” which never fails to put a lump in my throat. Last night was no exception.

Ryan Mullaney and Ashley Gray — Two fine singers teamed up to harmonize on “Desire” and the Gold standard “When the Stars Go Blue” (take that, Tim McGraw).

Wylie Hunter (Wylie Hunter & the Cazadores) — Back to Whiskeytown days with “Dancing With the Women at the Bar,” and Heartbreaker‘s “Be My Winding Wheel.” Really glad to hear both.

ChipNYNYChip Robinson (Backsliders) — He sat at the piano and covered “New York, New York,” reading lyrics he’d scribbled out by hand. Fascinating, weird and pretty great, made even moreso because he was wearing a Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt. I snagged the hand-written lyrics for my archive.

Debonzo Brothers — Jeff and Keef with another long-lost favorite, “Hey There, Mrs. Lovely” (yay!), plus Heartbreaker‘s “In My Time of Need.”

Be The Moon — And in the closing slot, this trio from Burlington offered up the resurrected Whiskeytown song “Am I Unstable.” It was fantastic, featuring box drum and an arrangement that Peter Blackstock’s memory placed in the ballpark of the original (which Whiskeytown only played live once, nearly 13 years ago).

All told, the event raised $579 for the Future of Music Coalition. I could not be happier, and prouder of everyone involved. Thanks to all the musicians, and especially to Deep South impressario Dave Rose for making it happen.

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Happy Veterans Day

Between Halloween, last Tuesday’s big election and Thanksgiving coming up, everybody is kind of catching their breath this weekend. But don’t forget Veterans Day today. And I bet Ryan remembers, seeing as how he grew up in the military-base town of Jacksonville, N.C. Maybe that’s why he wrote one of the best songs of remembrance I know, which is on (of course) Strangers Almanac. Take a listen, and remember.

There’s also this version, courtesy of my man Dean.

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