Posts Tagged With: Mitch Easter

Chris Stamey’s “Universe-Sized Arms,” from Ryan Adams

Stamey2015It’s not much of an overstatement to call Chris Stamey one of the great father figures to the music community around greater Chapel Hill, where the dB’s co-founder has toiled in the studio trenches with great honor for more than two decades. Chris was a key player in the early phases of the Whiskeytown saga, lending studio savvy at various junctures through the 1990s (including production of the great 1998 “lost” album, Forever Valentine). He also produced some spectacular post-Whiskeytown solo albums for Caitlin Cary.

More recently, Chris has served as producer, mentor and fixer for an entire generation of younger area artists, working with them on recordings and shows like the ongoing live performances of Big Star’s Third that he oversees. Brett Harris, Jeff Crawford, Skylar Gudasz and Django Haskins, among many others, have benefited greatly from the master’s assistance and guidance.

EuphoriaSomehow, Chris finds time to continue making records of his own, too. The latest is the aptly titled Euphoria (Yep Roc Records), a full-on rock record after the chamber-pop detour of 2013’s Lovesick Blues. Euphoria brings together a lot of the young guns from Stamey’s circle, alongside fellow North Carolina legends like Mitch Easter, figurehead of ’80s college-radio legends Let’s Active.

Of particular interest to Planet “Losering,” the album opens with a previously unheard song written by our man Ryan Adams, “Universe-Sized Arms.” Ryan wrote “Universe-Sized Arms” as a driving rocker, and Chris added a very cool orchestrated arrangement reminiscent of the old “James Bond” spy-movie soundtracks. Euphoria‘s other 12 tracks are quite fine as well, with Stamey’s usual surplus of melodic goodness plus a nifty bonus-track cover of the 1971 Tommy James hit “Draggin’ the Line” to boot.

Chris will unveil Euphoria with an album-release show Saturday night in Carrboro, and you can read a bit more about the record and details about the show here. I’m also delighted to be able to premiere the “Universe-Sized Arms” video below. Enjoy, y’all.

 

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From past to present: 6 String Drag

6SDB&WOver the last year or so, Kenny Roby, Rob Keller, Scott Miller and Ray Duffey have taken tentative steps toward putting their long-gone band 6 String Drag back together as a serious ongoing concern. That’s a welcome development because the years have been kind to their brand of combustible country-soul. I saw 6 String Drag play a spectacular show in early 2014, which made it clear that they hadn’t lost a step from their mid-’90s prime alongside the Backsliders and Whiskeytown in the Triangle’s top twang troika.

Soon after that show, 6 String Drag went into Mitch Easter’s palatial Fidelitorium studio to record their first album since 1997. A bit more than a year later we have Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll; and my God, is it wonderful. Tight in all the right places and gloriously loose everywhere else, Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll feels like a 40-minute pass to be young again — but not in a creepy, grasping way. It’s the work of people whose spark, collectively as well as individually, has never gone out. You can read a bit more about the record here, and also a longer review here.

Given the vagaries of a music industry that stopped making sense years ago (if ever it did, really), I have small hope that Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll will do enough to set 6 String Drag up as a fulltime occupation for its principles. But the fact that it exists at all feels like a minor miracle that should be celebrated. The album release show happens Friday night at Kings in Raleigh; do not miss it.

(Photo credit: Rodney Boles)

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Friends near and far, throwing rocks at the moon

SadlacksRIPFor those of us who were in Raleigh during our town’s glory days as epicenter of mid-’90s alternative-country, this holiday season has been just like the old times of the “Losering” era. It seems like we’ve all been saying hello again, as well as goodbye for good.

December brought the end of the building that housed one of Ryan Adams’ favorite Whiskeytown-era watering holes, the Comet Lounge, which was finally torn down two years after the demolition of the adjacent Brewery nightclub. And New Year’s Eve brought the end of Sadlack’s, the Hillsborough Street sandwich shop/bar where Whiskeytown formed two decades ago, which is closing to make way for a hotel. I went to Kenny Roby’s show there last Saturday night to report this story about the end; and while I was there, a Sadlack’s regular who may or may not have been drunk got in my face to rant, because I apparently chose the wrong person to interview. On the whole, I’d say it was a very Sadlack’s interaction, along with the following response from an angry reader (reproduced here in all its sub-literate glory):

Sadlack’s not well written at all, lame and denigrating you so called journalistic hack, you must be a smart ass never traveled punk yankee go home…news and disturber another rag with paid articles written to favor their advertisers

Golly, guess he told me.

Come New Year’s Eve, the Backsliders presided over the end out on the back patio with a last-rites set that included a couple of new songs good enough to qualify as encouraging. But just like always, it was “Throwing Rocks at the Moon” that put a lump in my throat. Title track of a 1997 album that really should have launched the Backsliders to stardom (or at least beyond dayjobs), “Moon” is a pretty-much-perfect evocation of bittersweet goodbyes. I found myself thinking about Ryan, of course, who left Sadlack’s and Raleigh behind long ago; and also my old friend Peter Blackstock, for whom I wrote that first No Depression Whiskeytown story all those years ago — and who just left the Triangle to move back to Austin and take the rock-writer job at the American-Statesman. I really wish he could’ve been there, so I sent a silent toast in his direction

6SDI’m also wishing Peter was gonna be here this weekend for Saturday’s reunion show by the third band from Raleigh’s alt-country kingpin troika, Kenny Roby’s 6 String Drag. Of course, the principles get a little twitchy about calling this a “reunion,” a word that carries the baggage of expectations. But no matter what they’re calling it, 6 String Drag’s four members have reconvened to record new music, which they’ll do later this month at Mitch Easter’s splendid Fidelitorium recording emporium over in Kernersville. I can’t wait to hear it. Meantime, here’s a preview of Saturday night’s show. Yes, of course, I’ll be there.

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