Posts Tagged With: John Prine

John Prine — out in paperback, in spite of himself

If a hardcover title subsequently comes out in a paperback edition, that’s a solid sign that the book in question book has done pretty well. So congratulations to Eddie Huffman, whose 2015 book “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” is the second American Music Series title to make the hardcover-to-soft transition (after Kristin Hersh’s “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” also from 2015 and our top-selling AMS book to date).

The “In Spite of Himself” paperback has a June publication date, but you should be able to find it in better bookstores already. And in an interesting twist, Prine himself has a book of his own coming out in June, “Beyond Words.”

 

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Books & Beer, in spite of ourselves

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 9.33.37 AM“Comin’ Right at Ya” moves into the personal-appearance phase of the PR campaign this week with Thursday’s Books & Beer in greater Pittsboro, NC, where Eddie Huffman and yours truly will hold forth about various book-related matters. I was one of the editors who worked on Eddie’s “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” and “Comin’ Right at Ya” is my third book, so we’ll have plenty to talk about.

Better enticement: This will happen outdoors at The Roost, where the oven-fired pizza is very fine and the beer (dare I hope for Starpoint Brewery’s Whiskeytown beer?) is even finer. Buy a book — and there will also be copies of  “Losering” as well as my long-ago novel “Off The Record” available — and it even comes with a free beer.

Thursday evening’s weather is supposed to be perfect, and for an added bonus we’ll have the excellent singer/songwriter Elliott Humphries there to do a few songs including selections from the John Prine songbook, the occasional Ryan Adams obscurity and maybe even an Asleep at the Wheel tune or two if I can talk him into it. I did a Books & Beer back in June with Tom Maxwell, and it was a great time. So come on out if you can.

Down the road a bit, I’ll also be at the Texas Book Festival on Oct. 18 (with co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson), and at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh on Oct. 21. I hope to see you at one of these if I’m in your neighborhood.

AFTERMATH: Books & Beer went great. Not sure if anybody else enjoyed it, but we did!

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You can read it in your Sunday papers: News & Observer excerpt

N&OlogoThe book-writing gig is fun and all, but it’s still a sideline project to my main occupation — arts reporter and music critic at Raleigh’s daily newspaper, The News & Observer, my primary professional address for the past 24 years. My editors there were kind enough to consent to running a “Comin’ Right at Ya” excerpt, which is in the Sunday paper.

Check that out here, and then come on out to one of this month’s reading-type appearances for “Comin’ Right at Ya”:

Thursday, Oct. 8 — Books & Brew at The Roost in Pittsboro (5-8 p.m.). Also appearing will be Eddie Huffman, discussing his John Prine book; and Elliott Humphries playing a few songs.

Sunday, Oct. 18Texas Book Festival at the State Capitol Auditorium in Austin, Texas (4:15 p.m.). Co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson will be at this one, too, so it should be well worth checking out. I expect he’ll play at least a song or two.

Wednesday, Oct. 21 — Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh (7 p.m.). I’m doing this one solo, so maybe I’ll break out the cowboy hat.

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Bookstore love

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Thanks, Bob!

So this is always a fun stage. “Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel” is a couple of weeks away from publication, with a nice anticipatory buzz building. Nothing but kind reviews and encouraging words so far; crushing disappointment can wait!

This time around, I won’t be doing as much promotion as I did for “Losering,” since “Comin’ Right at Ya” is really Ray Benson’s book and I’m just in the supporting cast. But I’ve still got a few events scheduled at area bookstores in October, just for the heck of it. The folks there have been kind enough to set up displays to get the word out, and to send pictures. And since they don’t yet have copies of “Comin’ Right at Ya” to put out, they’re making do with “Losering,” which I do not mind a bit.

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Thanks, Rene!

Above right is a display at McIntyre’s Books at Southern Village. I’ll be there for Books & Beer, Oct. 8 at The Roost, and I hope to talk a bit about all three of my books over the course of the evening. Also on that evening’s bill will be Eddie Huffman, discussing his American Music Series book on John Prine; and for musical accompaniment, Elliott Humphries, a fine singer-songwriter from Burlington who has been very kindly supportive of my book-ish endeavors over the years. I did a Books & Beer at The Roost back in June with the great Tom Maxwell and it was a fantastic time, so come on out if you’re in the region.

Here on the left, meanwhile, is what they have at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh (that’s me down at the bottom, just right of center), where I’ll be on Oct. 21. Quail Ridge was where I did the first “Losering” reading back in 2012, which was pretty much the peak experience of that book’s promotional cycle. We’ll see how it goes this time.

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…And a time to publish: Los Lobos

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.59.21 PMMeanwhile, the American Music Series rolls on as we strive to achieve critical mass (we hope!). Eddie Huffman’s “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” is officially published as of this week; and here is the cover for another of our upcoming titles, “Los Lobos: Dream in Blue” by Chris Morris. That will be out in October from University of Texas Press, at the same time as “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt” by Kristin Hersh.

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Showtime’s coming

Losering2So the second “Losering” tribute show is coming up, happening April 11 at Deep South The Bar in downtown Raleigh. And as if you needed another excuse to go, it’s going to be a benefit for the Food Bank of Eastern North Carolina. No, we’re not expecting Ryan himself to show up, but it will be a very fine lineup and most likely another sellout. So don’t sleep on getting tickets.

I’m also happy to report that this is not the only Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown tribute show in the works at Deep South. Coming later this summer will be an event paying homage to the definitive Whiskeytown album, Strangers Almanac. The date for this show is not yet settled, but it will probably happen somewhere around the anniversary of the album’s original release date (which was July 29, 1997). Stay tuned.

PrineEddieWhile I’m at it, there’s also a tribute show inspired by my man Eddie Huffman’s John Prine biography, “In Spite of Himself,” which will be in stores March 15. “A Tribute to John Prine” happens May 17 at Doodad Farm in Greensboro with performers including Chip Robinson, John Howie, Michael Rank, Caleb Caudle, Jon Shain, Danny Gotham and tons more. This, too,ReadLocal1 is a benefit – for Voices Together, a super-cool non-profit in Durham that serves children and adults with disabilities.

I’m not sure I’ll make it to the May 17 Prine tribute show because I’ll be on a music-writing panel at the Read Local Book Festival in Durham that same day. But I hope to be at one of Eddie’s bookstore readings, mostly likely Durham’s Regulator on March 25. He’ll also be at Scuppernong in Greensboro on April 10. Check his book blog for particulars on that.

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Hello in there: More From UT Press

PrineEddie“Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown” was published in the fall of 2012 as the second book in University of Texas Press’ American Music Series (following Don McLeese’s “Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”), and it’s taken a while for us to get it going. As originally envisioned, we’re supposed to be putting out four AMS titles a year — two every spring, two every fall. Some right fine books have come out on Merle Haggard in 2013 and the Flatlanders in 2014, but we haven’t been able to maintain that schedule. Finally, however, we’ve found our footing enough that the pace of publication is about to pick up.

First off, the next American Music Series book coming out will be “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” by my fellow North Carolina music journalist Eddie Huffman. The official publication date is March 15, and it’s our series’ first book to come out in a hardcover version (also, it’s the first with an actual photograph of the subject on the cover). I was one of this book’s primary editors and the process wasn’t always easy. As Eddie writes of me in the book’s acknowledgements, tongue planted firmly in cheek, “He and I are probably both glad he won’t have to ask me ‘How are the rewrites coming?’ next time we cross paths at Cat’s Cradle or the PNC Arena.”

UTPressLogoBut my peskiness and his hard work paid off with a book we’re all quite proud of. And so far, the early pre-release response has been gratifying indeed. “In Spite of Himself” picked up a very fine review in Publishers Weekly, which also named it one of this spring’s most-anticipated books. Kirkus weighed in with a nice review, too, and there are a number of other reviews and reading-type events in the works as well. Eddie’s blog will be the place to keep up with all of that, so bookmark it. I think Eddie did a fantastic job on this book, and I hope you’ll like it.

Beyond that, here’s what else is on the AMS schedule so far:

October 2015

“Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” by Kristin Hersh
“Los Lobos: Dream in Blue,” by Chris Morris

Spring 2016

“Madonnaland,” by Alina Simone
Mary J. Blige (title to come), by Danny Alexander

Fall 2016

T-Bone Burnett (title to come), by Lloyd Sachs

Spring 2017

Chrissie Hynde (title to come), by Adam Sobsey

To be scheduled

Tom Jones (title to come), by Jon Langford

The book on the list I’m most excited about is “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt” by Kristin Hersh, leader of the band Throwing Muses and one of Chesnutt’s closest friends. I was blown away when I saw her manuscript because it’s spine-tinglingly brilliant, the best book of any sort I’ve read in years. Seriously, it gave me chills. I’m thrilled to be a part of that one, and I can’t wait for everyone else to read it.

Meanwhile, you might notice that yours truly is not on the AMS schedule anywhere. But I do have a book coming out on UT Press in October, one I think turned out really well. It’s called “Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel,” which I co-wrote with Asleep at the Wheel founder and guiding light Ray Benson. I’ll have more to say about this project later, but for now there’s a bit more about it here.

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News about the American Music Series, and me — I’ll be Asleep At The Wheel

So “Losering” is still semi-current and getting some attention here and there; I’m curious to see whether or not the next Ryan Adams album (whenever one emerges) might generate some more interest. But the book has been out there for more than six months, which means it’s high time to move along to the next thing. I’m happy to have some news about that, as well as the University of Texas Press American Music Series.

RayBensonMy next book will be co-writing a memoir with Ray Benson, founder and guiding light of the Western swing band Asleep At The Wheel, and it’s a project I could not be more excited about. I grew up in Texas during the ’70s progressive-country era, and I wrote my UT Master’s thesis about the Armadillo World Headquarters. I’ve always had a soft spot for that era’s icons, and as icons go Ray is one of the best — a fantastic musician and raconteur who, as the saying goes, has been around the world twice and talked to everybody at least once. This should be a raucous good time.

So that’s what I’ll be working on for the next year or so. While the Benson book is also for UT Press, this one won’t actually be part of the UT Press American Music Series. But work there continues apace. As mentioned previously, David Cantwell’s “Merle Haggard: The Running Kind” is next up, out in September, to be followed by John T. Davis’s “The Flatlanders: One More Road” in 2014. I’ve been asked to keep mum about several other titles in the works, but here are the ones in the pipeline that I can tell you about:

Los Lobos, by Chris Morris
John Prine, by Eddie Huffman
Vic Chesnutt, by Kristin Hersh
Ray Charles, by David Cantwell
Mary J. Blige, by Danny Alexander
Madonna, by Alina Simone

Obviously, the last two names are what jump off that list, possibly leaving you to wonder what the heck is going on here. Thus far the American Music Series has had an Americana focus, which is not surprising given that it’s an outgrowth of No Depression magazine. But the series is still developing an identity, and the truth is that we were always going to have to broaden it in terms of both styles and approaches to make it work. Thus, Mary J. Blige and Madonna.

UTPressLogoNow it’s certainly possible that American Music Series might eventually come to mean just “books about music.” Nevertheless, even though Blige and Madonna are both outliers (and probably as far as I’d care to go in this direction), I think you can build a case for both being a better fit than they might seem at first glance. Blige, The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, is firmly grounded in the r&b tradition, and I’ve always thought of her as more soul than hip-hop. A decade from now, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she were singing straight-up gospel because such an evolution would make perfect sense.

That brings us to Madonna, who is admittedly more of a stretch. But I think the real draw here will be Alina Simone, one of the most exciting new writers out there. I first met Alina a few years back when she lived in Chapel Hill and was playing intriguingly dark indie-rock along the lines of Cat Power and PJ Harvey. She really found her voice on 2008’s Everyone Is Crying Out To Me, Beware, a tribute album to the late “Yanka” (Soviet-era punk icon Yana Stanislavovna Dyagileva, who is Russia’s answer to Patti Smith). Sung entirely in Russian, Beware is a fascinating album with an even-more-fascinating back-story; you can read some of it here or here. Better still, read Alina’s wonderful 2011 memoir “You Must Go and Win.”

If Steve Earle, Jon Langford or another writerly Americana icon wanted to write a book for our series, I think we’d jump at the chance even if the subject they proposed fell outside the Americana universe. While Alina doesn’t have as high a musical profile as those two, she’s still part of this century’s indie-rock flock — someone that No Depression probably would have been reviewing if the magazine were still publishing when Beware came out. I think Alina’s idiosyncratic take on a cultural icon like Madonna will make for a great book. I can’t wait to read what she comes up with, and to be a part of sharing it with you.

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More on the American Music Series and UT Press

UT Press and I had agreed on Ryan as a subject at South By Southwest 2010.When the next SXSW rolled around in March 2011, I met again in Austin with my then-editor, Allison Faust, as well as UT Press marketing director Dave Hamrick and No Depression magazine co-founder Peter Blackstock. I hadn’t gotten very far with writing by then; in fact, I wasn’t much past the “Preface” and I was still nervous about making the Sept. 1 deadline. But I kept that to myself. Instead, the four of us brainstormed ideas for the series.

It was a very productive meeting, yielding up a long list of possible subjects and authors. That meeting also resulted in me coming on-board as series co-editor. Some things have changed about the series over the past year and a half, including the name. It’s the American Music Series now, and the primary UT Press editor is Casey Kittrell. As co-editors, Peter Blackstock and I get some input on artists and writers (although UT Press still has the final say).

The first AMS title came out in March 2012, “Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” written by the estimable Don McLeese. My book “Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown” is the second in the series. The Aug. 31 issue of Publishers Weekly magazine included a piece about music-related books under the headline, “The Music Didn’t Die.” Alas, it takes a subscription and password to see the whole thing. But here’s the part that pertains to the American Music Series, which comes at the very end of the story:

In 2005, the University of Texas published “The Best of No Depression,” an anthology of articles from the hip alt-country magazine, No Depression. Working with the magazine’s co-founders Peter Blackstock and David Menconi, Texas’s sponsoring editor Casey Kittrell grew excited about these two editing a possible series. Austin City Limits promoted the first book in the American Music Series, Don McLeese’s “Dwight Yoakam,” when Yoakam played on that stage. This season Menconi chronicles the rise to fame of alt-country star, Ryan Adams, in “Ryan Adams: Losering, a Story of Whiskeytown” (Sept.), and forthcoming topics include Merle Haggard, Uncle Tupelo, and John Prine, among others. Kittrell says that the series plans to publish “musical biographies about important American musicians and that eventually it will edge into genres beyond alt-country and feature books by musicians and literary writers.”

For the record, Allison Faust was the first UT Press editor to work on the series, before Casey Kittrell; and while I was in on No Depression magazine from the start, I wasn’t a co-founder. That was Mr. Grant Alden, who we very much hope will be writing a book for the series at some point. A lot of the ideas we tossed around at that March 2011 meeting are still cooking along at various stages, and we’ve had further conversations. I hope to be able to tell you about more American Music Series books before too long. But here are the ones under contract (or firm enough to talk about) at the moment:

Merle Haggard, by Dave Cantwell
Uncle Tupelo, by Dan Durchholz
Los Lobos, by Chris Morris
John Prine, by Eddie Huffman
The Flatlanders, by John T. Davis
Vic Chesnutt, by Kristin Hersh

As the proud owner of a vinyl copy of Throwing Muses’ House Tornado, I’m especially excited about that last one. But I think all of these have the potential to be fantastic.

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