Posts Tagged With: Oh My Sweet Carolina

Final Four in the “BEST DRA SONG 2017”

The “BEST DRA SONG 2017” listener poll has gone pretty much exactly according to Hoyle, in that it’s now down to the last four songs — and all four No. 1 seeds have made it into the Final Four. I’d call that an indication of how solid a job that superfan poll-meister Christopher S. Bradley did with seeding the bracket and putting this thing together.

So anyway, it’s come down to “16 Days” from the Whiskeytown bracket matched up against the Ashes & Fire track “Dirty Rain” (winner of the 2011-Present bracket) in one semifinal; and in the other, the Cardinals’ Cold Roses track “Let It Ride” facing off against Heartbreaker bracket champion “Come Pick Me Up,” which only narrowly beat out “Oh My Sweet Carolina” in the Elite Eight round. I’m pulling for “16 Days” versus “Come Pick Me Up” in the final, because those two songs both come from the heart of my favorite “Losering” era. But we’ll see.

Voting for this round will close at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday (June 21). Vote here and check the updated bracket here, or below.

 

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BJ Barham gives “Oh My Sweet Carolina” a down-home feel

Not sure how the heck I missed this when it initially surfaced last month, but it’s really lovely. Singer/songwriter BJ Barham leads the heavily Whiskeytown-influenced Raleigh band American Aquarium; and in this segment recorded for “Under the Apple Tree,” he talks about and performs a wonderfully heartfelt version of Ryan Adams’ 2000 love letter to his native state, “Oh My Sweet Carolina.” Check it out.

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“Greatest Southern Musician” Madness

Whether in sports or music, GREATEST-OF-ALL-TIME arguments are inherently pointless — but they sure are fun. And here’s another solid argument-starter: The Alabama Media Group  is conducting an online poll asking readers to “Vote for the Greatest Southern Musician” of all time. To that end, they’ve done up a seeded NCAA Basketball Tournament-style bracket of 64 acts in four different Southern regions, from Texas-Louisiana to Florida-Kentucky-North/South Carolina-Virginia.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.54.38 AMNorth Carolina native Ryan Adams shows up in the latter bracket as a No. 14 seed. That puts him in a tough first-round matchup against No. 3 Lynyrd Skynyrd in what Al.com calls “the Battle of the Jacksonvilles,” Florida versus North Carolina. In that case, I think Ryan should get extra credit for “Jacksonville Skyline” and “Jacksonville.” Looks like he could use a little help, too. When I voted this morning, the ’70s Southern-rock icons were winning in a blowout with more than 88 percent of 819 votes cast so far.

This “ACC” Southeast region’s No. 1 seed is soul godfather James Brown, which actually seems just about right; he should make short work of No. 16 Chris Stapleton. Of North Carolina interest further down the bracket is confessional singer-songwriter James Taylor, who was born in Massachusetts but spent enough of his formative years in Chapel Hill to write one of North Carolina’s definitive songs, at No. 9 and matched up with No. 8 Jimmy Buffett; Tryon-raised r&b icon Nina Simone at No. 6, pitted against Wilmington native Charlie Daniels at No. 11; and songbird Emmylou Harris, an Alabama native who did some time at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro (and was also Ryan’s duet partner on “Oh My Sweet Carolina”), at No. 10 and up against No. 7 Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass.

There’s a whole section of rules about how they determined who rated a spot in the field and where. This round of voting closes Saturday (June 25), with the eventual winner scheduled to be unveiled on July 18. And if Ryan is to have better luck with this than the Grammy Awards, he’s got some ground to make up. Cast your vote here.

UPDATE (6/26/2016): Well, Ryan’s stay in this particular tournament was a short one. Lynyrd Skynyrd beat him with ease, pulling just under 80 percent of 1,235 votes cast to win by a final count of 987-248. James Taylor also bowed out in the first round, losing to Jimmy Buffett, as did Nina Simone to Charlie Daniels. But Emmylou Harris managed to advance past Bill Monroe; looks like she’ll be up against No. 2 seed Tom Petty in round two.

UPDATE (7/18/2016): The Overall winner is George Strait.

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Fifteen years of “Heartbreaker”

HeartbreakerHere’s another reminder of just how much time has slipped away since the Whiskeytown era: Today marks exactly 15 years since the release of Heartbreaker, Ryan Adams’ first solo album. Even though the band hadn’t “officially” broken up at that point, and its in-limbo album Pneumonia wouldn’t be released until the following May, I’ve still always thought of Heartbreaker as the official end of Ryan’s Whiskeytown period. He was certainly talking about Whiskeytown in the past tense in the No Depression magazine feature I wrote for Heartbreaker’s release. And a year later, the mainstream was in the process of finally discovering Ryan with his second (and inferior, at least to me) solo album Gold.

Here’s a pretty solid track-by-track dissection. I am a little embarrassed to admit that, as noted in chapter 12 of “Losering,” my initial reaction to Heartbreaker at the time was disappointment that it didn’t have any of the astounding material I’d seen Ryan play live during his fall 1999 shows (“Hey There Mrs. Lovely,” “Oh My Sweet Valentine,” “Born Yesterday” and other songs you can find nowadays on bootlegs like Destroyer). But that feeling didn’t last because Heartbreaker was and is extraordinary — a perfect snapshot of Ryan finding himself artistically at a moment when his life and career seemed to be falling apart. I still think it’s the best of his officially released solo albums, and it would have outsold Gold by multiples were there an ounce of justice in this world. At least it’s the top-selling album in the history of Bloodshot Records, so that’s something.

Ryan himself has had some harsh and flippant things to say about Heartbreaker over the years, including this dismissively withering 2006 self-assessment:

If you are a redneck or want to be disappointed with me buy Heartbreaker. But it’s utter shit and I didn’t mean a word of it.

Maybe he really meant that. But Ryan says a lot of things, and I think it matters more that a decade and a half later, he still plays Heartbreaker tunes like “Come Pick Me Up” and “Oh My Sweet Carolina” onstage pretty much every night. And it seems as though his feelings toward Heartbreaker have softened just a bit. In the wee small hours of this morning, Ryan tweeted this:

Happy 15th Anniversary, Heartbreaker!!!

You’re too long, overly earnest & a lil’ wordy but damnit you’re all mine.

That’s fair. So here’s to Heartbreaker — and the ongoing hope that the heartbreak kid has still got another record like that in him.

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“Oh My Sweet Carolina” Down Under

Ryan Adams might not play his native state anymore, but he does take a little of it with him wherever he goes — even to the other side of the world. Here’s a lovely version of his 2000 Old North State ode “Oh My Sweet Carolina” that Ryan played the other night in Melbourne, Australia, with Jenny Lewis covering the Emmylou Harris vocal harmony. While the visuals are on the blurry side, the audio is very nice.

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Governor’s Ball: A “Terminator” nightmare?

As noted earlier, Ryan Adams is playing a whole bunch of festivals this year, and they’re gigs that come with a certain amount of built-in potential irritants. Sound bleed from one stage to another, for instance. Saturday night at New York’s Governors Ball found Ryan reportedly getting in touch with his inner Mark Kozelek while trying to be heard over electronic dance music star deadmau5 (Joel Thomas Zimmerman), who was playing another stage nearby.

Ryan and deadmau5 have recorded together before (although nothing was ever released). But that didn’t stop Ryan from talking a little get-off-my-lawn-type smack onstage: “Try and make this song on your fucking iPhone. This song is not going to match the robot music over there. It’s like we’re living in a ‘Terminator’ nightmare.” Then he played “Oh My Sweet Carolina.”

Oh, Ryan…

The initial response from deadmau5 via Twitter is below. He also went on to call Ryan “a cool dude…talented musician, had a jam sesh with em once. Which is why I find this odd,” and to poke fun at some of the headlines about the incident: “OH ONES! another rocker vs. Electronic music feud! This is all JUST SO FUCKIN NEW! At least his music is original.”

UPDATE (5 p.m.): At the bottom, a peace-making Twitter exchange between Ryan and deadmau5 restores civility and brings it to a close.

deadmau5GB

Ryan: No disrespect meant. My humor is 100% sarcasm (as you know). Peace & love. Build that dream machine!…I wrote that last tweet to @deadmau5 on my I phone. Same one I used to take voice notes for my last and new record.

deadmau5: nah  man. i thought it was funny. 😉 no harm done.

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Songs of the South with Ryan Adams, among others

RollingStone

Between the book and this blog, there’s no doubt that I’ve already spieled a lot more about Ryan Adams than any sane person should — probably more than enough for one lifetime. Nevertheless, when Rolling Stone sent out a list of songs they wanted written about for a “25 Best Songs About The South” feature and it included Ryan’s “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” I just could not resist taking that one. They let me have it, so here it is (and also below). The editors decided on the ranking and put “Sweet Carolina” at No. 16.

Elsewhere on the list, I also got to do blurbs on Drive-By Truckers’ “Three Great Alabama Icons” (No. 21); George Strait’s “All My Exes Live in Texas” (No. 20); Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” (No. 2!) and James Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind” (No. 1, whoo hoo!!). Getting to write about two of my favorite North Carolina-themed songs, as well as the entries that the editors wound up putting in the top two spots on the list, was pretty heady stuff for the likes of little old me.

DRARS

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Ryan Adams picks up Bloodshot, while the NC Music Love Army sticks to the plan

BS20Ryan Adams released just one full-length on Bloodshot Records, but that album was a doozy — his 2000 solo debut Heartbreaker, which (as recounted in chapter 12 of “Losering”) cracked 300,000 copies in U.S. sales. That’s the Chicago-based alternative-country label’s commercial high-water mark by far, with albums by Neko Case, Justin Townes Earle and Alejandro Escovedo next in line. All these years later, Heartbreaker remains Bloodshot’s top seller even though the label’s licensing agreement for it expired last year, which means that Heartbreaker is officially out of print nowadays. That probably won’t be changing anytime soon, either. When I inquired with Ryan’s publicist about whether or not a reissue was in the works, the answer that came back was, “There are no plans that I’m aware of” (and she would know).

Nevertheless, Heartbreaker remains a big part of Bloodshot’s history. So it’s no surprise that its songs dominate While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records, a two-disc Bloodshot tribute album set to be released Nov. 18. While No One Was Looking compiles 38 covers of songs from Bloodshot releases, with versions by luminaries including Ted Leo, Handsome Family, Minus Five and the regrettably named (but still quite good) Diarrhea Planet. Four songs on the track list came from Heartbreaker, more than any other album in the Bloodshot catalog:

* “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” — performed by Blitzen Trapper from Portland, Ore. (thanks, Erin!)
* “My Winding Wheel” — Seattle indie-folk duo Ivan & Alyosha
* “Come Pick Me Up” — Superchunk
* “Oh My Sweet Carolina” — San Francisco’s Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers

You can listen to the very fine Blitzen Trapper cover below, and the versions of “Sweet Carolina” and “Winding Wheel” are also both quite lovely. But the real revelation is Chapel Hill punk band Superchunk’s “Come Pick Me Up” — take a listen to the stream on Pitchfork — which revs up the original’s dirge pace to a fast and gleeful raveup (stoked by Whiskeytown alumnus Jon Wurster on the drums). Covering Ryan’s Heartbreaker songs is getting to be a thing for Superchunk guitarist Mac McCaughan, who similarly recast “Oh My Sweet Carolina” with his other band Portastatic for another tribute compilation a few years back.



Even beyond the four Heartbreaker songs, Ryan casts a long shadow over the rest of While No One Was Looking. In terms of both songs and performers, the album is littered with Ryan’s former collaborators (Caitlin Cary, Alejandro Escovedo) and rivals (Robbie Fulks, Old 97s). Superchunk isn’t the only act from Ryan’s home state of North Carolina, either; there’s also Hiss Golden Messenger, Dex Romweber Duo and most of all the North Carolina Music Love Army — featuring Ryan’s old Whiskeytown bandmate Caitlin, head Backslider Chip Robinson and 6 String Drag’s Kenny Roby — turning Graham Parker’s “Stick to the Plan” into something like an ironic latterday answer to the old Kennedy campaign theme “High Hopes,” describing a certain political party’s apparent we-know-best attitude:

Don’t pay no attention to what the experts say
Too much intelligence gets in the way
Yeah it gets in the way
You know it gets in the way
And if you wanna be happy
Be like Forrest Gump everyday.

NCMLA14The NC Music Love Army has been busy this fall in conjunction with the upcoming midterm elecitons. One of the nation’s marquee contests is North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis — a brutal and interminable campaign that’s on course to be the most expensive in history, with total spending expected to top a staggering $100 million. To raise spirits, awareness and turnout, the Love Army crew has been putting out new songs that can be heard here. The most notable of the new tunes is an environmental anthen called “Senator’s Lament,” in which Caitlin Cary’s fiddle features prominently. The lyrics are below.

“Senator’s Lament”

There are places in the ocean
They are dark and sacred still
We cannot reach them
But we can ruin them
With a greed no sea can fill.

Oh green mountain, her bones are older
Than the pillars of any town
But we move her with our big plans
Dig out her heart and steal her gown.

Oh Carolina, how I love you
And your ever-changing ways
I didn’t see how much I hurt you
I only hope I’m not too late.

There are children in the harvest
Their backs are bent to rain and sun
And we profit while they’re poisoned
When they fall, don’t no one come

There are places in the ocean
That are dark and sacred still
We can’t reach them, but we can leave them
And we can ask this land to forgive
We can ask this land to forgive
We can ask this land to forgive…

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Ryan Adams will be here in song if not in spirit

RAHposterTuesday night, Ryan Adams played his first full-band show in almost four years, as part of a star-studded benefit for the Teenage Cancer Trust at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Reports indicate that the set included a song made up on the spot plus “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” several new songs that will be on his upcoming album, a lot of very funny banter and “Come Pick Me Up” as a closer. Even though he didn’t do a single Whiskeytown song (Oh, Ryan — Ryan, Ryan, Ryan…), I truly wish I’d been there. The always-reliable Mega-Super-Gold was first on the scene with a setlist (the original is viewable here); reviews and show reports are herehere, here, here,  here, here, here, here, here and here; and you can download a recording of the show here.

Ryan also popped up on the interwebs this week as part of a punk band called Pornography, which is putting out a limited-edition seven-song seven-inch (!) next month. Check out opening song “Last Nite at the Opera,” all 53 seconds of it, hereand you can start pestering your favorite independent record store about snagging one of the super-rare vinyl copies that will be released April 20 for Record Store Day.

Meantime, there’s talk of a U.S. tour when Ryan’s album comes out, and hope springs eternal that he’ll bless his old home state with a show. But it’s pretty much as certain as death and taxes that he won’t play anywhere near his former Raleigh stomping grounds.

Since Ryan won’t come play here, then, it seems like the thing to do is to get some folks together to play some of his songs. And that’s exactly what is going to happen later this spring at a club in Raleigh, a Ryan Adams tribute show. It’s still coming together, so I can’t spill details just yet. But there should be a date, a place and a lineup to report very soon.

Stay tuned…

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Under pressure: “Songs for 65 Roses” brings it all back home

The 20 years or so that “Losering” covers is just a small subset of a bigger story that goes even further back in time. That was one reason I started this damn country blog (groan), to fill in the picture a bit; only so much can fit into 200 pages, after all. My own history in the Triangle goes back to 1991, when I arrived to take the rock-writer job at the News & Observer. Alas, that was a few years too late for me to experience Chapel Hill’s Pressure Boys, who broke up in the late 1980s.

The Pressure Boys were kind of the ultimate party band in a town full of them, and former members went on to notable careers elsewhere — note the band’s prominent place in the upper left corner of this slice of the “N.C. music galaxy” I did in 1995. In the big picture, the Pressure Boys served as a transitional bridge between the ’80s wave of bands including Arrogance, dB’s and Let’s Active; and the alternative-rock generation that came of age in the ’90s, including Superchunk and Whiskeytown.

Songs65RosesAfter the Pressure Boys broke up, frontman John Plymale became a very fine producer, in which capacity he worked with a ton of acts from multiple generations of the Triangle music scene. Maybe the best illustration of his career is a record that ties it all together in a most wonderful way, Songs for 65 Roses: Re-Working the North Carolina Jukebox, a 2006 compilation to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (the album’s title came from how his young daughter Allie, who has cystic fibrosis, would pronounce the disease when she was very young).

The concept of 65 Roses is North Carolina acts covering North Carolina songs. Plenty of players from the “Losering” story turn up on both sides of that equation — Caitlin Cary, Superchunk, Chris Stamey and Squirrel Nut Zippers among them. Check this 2006 feature for further details on the web of connections that the album spins.

My favorite 65 Roses song is Let’s Active’s “Every Word Means No,” recast in a Tom Waits-ish arrangement by Eric Bachmann, leader of 1990s-vintage Chapel Hill indie-rock titans Archers of Loaf. Not far behind, however, is Ryan Adams’ “Oh My Sweet Carolina” as performed by Portastatic, the solo incarnation of Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan. It starts out quiet and acoustic like Ryan’s 2000 original before revving up into an electrified version, a great tangent that turns a prayerful song into an exuberant one.

Check out this lovely little rumination about it, which has a Spotify link helpfully included.

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