Ryan Adams recently played a well-received acoustic bluegrass set with Infamous Stringdusters at last month’s Newport Folk Festival, long-ago site of one of the the rock era’s great confrontations. Newport was where Bob Dylan horrified and enraged folkie purists back in 1965 by putting aside his acoustic guitar to play loud electric-guitar rock backed up by the Butterfield Blues Band. Rock-mythology enthusiast that he is, Ryan made a nod to that history as well as his own penchant for confounding the expectations of his fanbase with the for-the-occasion T-shirts he was selling at the gig:
I would go electric but my fans are already used to disappointment.
More 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’.