Posts Tagged With: Labor Day

A working-class hero is something to be: “Bastards I Used to Know”

“Bastards I Used to Know” was one of the earliest Whiskeytown songs, and it still lingers even though it was never released on a record. Also variously known as “Lucky Me” and “This Old City,” “Bastards” kind of stumbles along on the demo-ish recording of it that survives, with Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary still working out their vocal-harmony dynamic. It’s ragged but wonderful in a shambolic sort of way, like a drunken younger cousin of the old Jerry Jeff Walker warhorse “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.” But where that song was pointedly tongue-in-cheek, this one is bitter to the core.

Ryan wrote “Bastards” as a poison-pen kiss-off to his former Patty Duke Syndrome bandmates, Brian Walsby and Jere McIlwean, with whom he’d had what he called “an evil breakup” the first time I interviewed him (more about that is in Chapter Three of “Losering”). Although it isn’t really about jobs or labor, I’ve always thought of “Bastards” as a Labor Day song, steeped as it is in working-class dayjob blues. Picture Ryan slaving away in the Rathskeller kitchen while muttering this under his breath:

This old city where I live is poor and dirty
Work I do, it barely pays the bills
This old city, it is home to stupid bastards I used to know
Lucky me, I’m too drunk to remember their names…

Should your Labor Day cookout today take a turn toward the inebriated, you could do a lot worse than this for group-sing-along fodder. So fire it up.

ADDENDUM — When I posted this on Facebook, I heard from Danny Kurtz, bassist in late-period Whiskeytown (and also the Backsliders):

That’s crazy. I took that photo of Ryan in Wyoming while driving to Seattle. We all stopped to take a break and there were all these pretty daisies growing on the side of the road. I sent it in years ago to a contest for best ryan photo.

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Ryan Adams still partying like it’s 1989

Ryan Adams has apparently finished tracking his version of Taylor Swift’s best-selling 1989 album, leaving a breathless rock blogosphere (admittedly including yours truly) still clamoring for details about the project. There does not yet appear to be an “official” release date. Indeed, none of the principles have even confirmed it will be released at all, and maybe Ryan just plans to play it for Swift in private.

But the progress report below, which Ryan put out via Twitter Monday afternoon, certainly points toward a public release; hard to imagine he’d go to the trouble of mixing and mastering it otherwise. If that happens this week, might Ryan drop a digital version of 1989 as soon as, say, Labor Day? Given the level of attention this project has attracted, striking while the iron is hot with a fast turn-around certainly makes sense.

I have to admit, this is the most interested I’ve been in one of Ryan’s new albums in quite some time. I can’t wait to hear it — a sentiment that Swift herself seems to share.

ADDENDUM (8/28/2015): The vigil continues.


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