Posts Tagged With: Pneumonia

Whiskeytown don’t need no stinkin’ badges

WTNYEHere’s something that turned up recently, a long-ago token I’d forgotten all about. It’s a laminate designed by Whiskeytown drummer/noted graphic artist Skillet Gilmore, and it dates back to the band’s interminable period of limbo in 1999 after recording what eventually came out as the album Pneumonia in 2001 (more about that time is in “Losering” — Chapter 11, fittingly enough).

While the band waited around for its fate to be decided after the Universal/PolyGram merger vaporized its label Outpost Records, Ryan Adams played a solo tour that included a handful of epic Triangle shows in the fall of ’99. Whiskeytown was winding down and becoming less and less of a going concern as the stalemate dragged on; but the band was booked into Cat’s Cradle nightclub in Carrboro for a New Year’s Eve show on Dec. 31, 1999.

Even with Y2K paranoia in the air, a full house turned out that night hoping to hear some of the new songs from Pneumonia. None were in the setlist, but it was a fine evening nevertheless. What I remember most about the show was Ryan serenading Skillet and his fiance Caitlin Cary with the Faithless Street song “Matrimony,” singing it in his best Jagger-esque cockney yowl after introducing it with a disclaimer: “Alanis Morissette is not ironic; this is ironic.”

Whiskeytown hadn’t played a local show in a while, and this one was deemed to be enough of a big deal for the band to do up a few of these “LIMITED PRESS ACCESS” laminates. They were kind enough to give me one, although all these years later I cannot recall what access it granted. But I’m glad to still have it.

 

 

 

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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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In the spring of 2015, Ryan Adams plays “Summer of ’69”

In October of 2002, Ryan Adams played Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and it did not go well. A heckler kept yelling for “Summer of ’69,” Ryan threw something of a fit and it’s been following him around like an albatross ever since — still the one thing everybody seems to know about him, even non-fans (see Chapter 15 of “Losering” for more on this). In a long-overdue settling-up, however, Ryan played the Ryman again last night and actually played a right nice solo acoustic rendition of Summer of ’69.” Take a listen; and there’s more about it herehere and here.

So, wow. Do we dare hope a Raleigh date on his tour schedule is next?

ADDENDA: This actually wasn’t the first time Ryan played “Summer of ’69” in public. In a July 2005 show with the Cardinals, Ryan kind of burned it to the ground. And here are Bryan Adams’ thoughts about it.


While I’m at it, the night before Ryan brought Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires onto the Ryman Stage for a drop-dead gorgeous run-through of Whiskeytown’s Pneumonia song “Jacksonville Skyline” — check that out, too.

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What might have been: Ryan Adams goes back to “Jacksonville”

RyanAdamsCoverBelieve it or not, I really don’t go out of my way to be contrary about Ryan Adams’ late-period work. With every record he’s released since the Whiskeytown days, I’ve put in a fair amount of listens, trying to find something to like. And while they all have some merit (or at least a handful of decent songs), overall most of them come up short for me. That goes for the current eponymous album Ryan Adams, which has drawn mostly positive reviews but still strikes me as somewhere between meh and okay. There’s a song or two on it that I’ll find myself humming along with, but for the most part my preliminary conclusion on it from just over a month ago still stands:

A self-titled album, especially by someone who has been around a while, implies a statement-of-purpose declaration of sorts: This is who I am. And what bothers me about “Ryan Adams” is just how generic it is. It’s not bad — in fact, it’s perfectly pleasant while it’s playing — but it also sounds like something that any number of other people could have made. I’d rather hear another record that Ryan and only Ryan could have made. Given his thoughts on his own catalog, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Maybe ever.

draJvilleIf I thought that Ryan could no longer do this kind of work anymore — if he had really moved on from that phase of his life, personally as well as artistically, to the point that it just wasn’t in him — I believe I could reconcile that and move on myself. But then he does something like his latest seven-inch EP, “Jacksonville”-“I Keep Running”-“Walkedypants,” and it just keeps me hangin’ on.

It’s not flawless, of course. “Walkedypants” is one of Ryan’s infamous in-studio goofs, two-and-a-half minutes you’ll never need to hear more than once. The other two songs, however, could be the missing link between Whiskeytown’s dark masterpiece Strangers Almanac and Ryan’s ambitious ornate-pop effort Pneumonia (with a little solo-era Cold Roses thrown in). More than a decade and a half later, he’s gone from sounding older than his years to sounding like he’s finally caught up with himself.

In glorious shades of pop-twang, Ryan sketches out yet another bittersweet lament for the old North Carolina hometown he used to curse. But you can’t tell me he doesn’t love it now, just from the way his voice quavers on the “Oh, Jacksonville” chorus. It’s heart-stoppingly lovely. Then, just to split the arrow in the bullseye, he follows that with another attempt to explain in song why he’s still running away from it after all this time.

I’m faster than the pain
That’s running through my veins
And you can’t break my heart if you don’t know my name
I keep running…

But that’s the thing. Run from something long enough and eventually you’ll find yourself running back to it (“Run To You,” indeed). And close to 20 years since Whiskeytown’s heyday, Ryan can still resonate on that wavelength when he gets a mind to. Had he done a whole album like this, he’d deserve the current round of accolades and a whole lot more. Instead, he puts out a major-label album that sounds like second-rate Tom Petty/Bryan Adams mash-ups while relegating his best work in years — songs that sound like they actually mean something! — to a limited-edition seven-inch release.

You have gone missing from my life…

Ryan Adams is better than Ryan Adams and “Jacksonville” proves it. I really wish I could have picked someone less frustrating as object of neurotic fandom. But for the seven-and-a-half minutes “Jacksonville” and “I Keep Running” are playing, it feels just like old times.

That’ll have to do.


 

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It’s only words…

MyBrain

So if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I post a lot of song lyrics — I mean, a lot of song lyrics — because it’s kind of my thing. Yes, I expect it comes across as manic to people who don’t know me, but I’d like to think it’s at least a little bit entertaining. Some of what I post is obvious enough, like a quote from Devo’s “Whip It” when Devo guitarist Bob Casale died last week. And my man Ryan Adams has always been a recurrent favorite, especially at times when I’m flogging “Losering.”  But the majority of my lyric posts are admittedly pretty cryptic. Sometimes they’re based on something I heard, sometimes they’re what I’m feeling and sometimes they’re just random flotsam my mental jukebox spews out. Unless we’re related, I probably won’t spill which is which.

Anyway, the meme up there on the right was going around Facebook over the weekend and wound up on a bunch of folks’ walls, including mine. And while the sentiment always applies to yours truly, the timing made it even more perfect than usual. Sunday afternoon brought an informal lyrics-inspired gathering to Deep South the Bar, the downtown Raleigh nightspot where the “Losering” tribute show happened in May 2013. Deep South’s thing is lyrics, too, in that the bar’s decor is mostly song lyrics they’ve had people paint on the walls over the years.

It’s been a while since Deep South added any new song lyrics to the walls, so they invited a bunch of people to come by on Sunday and make contributions — including me. And where did I turn for lyrics? Do you really have to ask? Check it out below; it’s from “Bar Lights,” the final listed track on Whiskeytown’s swan-song album Pneumonia, which seemed appropriate for the barroom setting.

While I was at it, I talked to a few other people who were doing lyrics (including the Mayor of Raleigh) and put together a quick story for the paper. Check that hereFinally, there’s also some talk about Deep South possibly hosting another “Losering” tribute show like the very successful one from last year. Stay tuned for details!

DSLyrics

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Photoshopped spaghetti in the mirror

BSfotoshopI’m in the midst of a hectic stretch right now, but I wanted to share a couple of quick Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown-related tidbits that turned up this week. First up is a poetry blog called Tweetspeak, which publishes a monthly musical playlist as a thematic poetry-writing prompt. June’s theme is “Mirror, Mirror” — and the song of the same name from Whiskeytown’s 2001 Pneumona album is the first of eight tracks listed alongside mirror-titled songs by Death Cab For Cutie, Bright Eyes, RJD2 and others. Some of the poetry this prompted is truly beautiful and inspired, too, well worth checking out.

Speaking of inspirational, dig the cool little piece of genius on the right here. Bloodshot Records (former label home of Ryan’s still-out-of-print 2000 album Heartbreaker) is conducting The Eddie Spaghetti Photoshopped Into Anything Challenge; and this is Whiskeytown’s drummer-turned-artist Skillet Gilmore’s entry, featuring the one and only Chip Robinson. The contest deadline is next Friday, June 14, with Supersuckers frontman Spaghetti himself selecting one winner and fans selecting the other via “Like” votes.

If anyone other than Skillet wins this thing, I’ll be stunned…

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Ryan Adams by the numbers: Money, money, money in the bank

Ryan Adams has had a very fine career by the numbers as well as by the music, which is something that entered into the “Losering” story. While I was working on the book, I called upon a friend who worked at a music-business establishment with a subscription to Nielsen Soundscan, the service that tracks music sales in the U.S. He provided album-sales figures for Ryan’s catalog, both solo and with Whiskeytown, which was very useful data to have. While it would be unwise to put all the precise to-the-last-digit numbers for every album here (Soundscan is a subscription service, after all), Ryan’s sales figures through January 2012 can be summarized thusly:

Whiskeytown — 424,103 total sales. In terms of individual titles, the range was from just over 150,000 copies of the original 1997 version of Strangers Almanac down to just under 3,000 copies of the original 1996 independent-label version of Faithless Street. Whiskeytown’s 2001 swan song Pneumonia and the 1998 Outpost Records reissue of Faithless Street were both at over 100,000 copies.

Ryan Adams solo — 2,362,984 total sales, topped by 2001’s Gold at about 425,000 (a figure you’ll notice is greater than the entire Whiskeytown catalog combined) and followed by 2000’s Heartbreaker at about 309,000 and 2007’s Easy Tiger at just over 250,000. Of the rest, only 2003’s Rock N Roll was at more than 200,000 — although 2005’s Cold Roses was close. And bringing up the rear: 2005’s 29 at about 96,000, and 2010’s III/IV at just under 49,000.

NetWorthAdd it up, and it comes to almost 2.8 million in total U.S. album sales (which is probably at least in the neighborhood of 3 million by now, since that was 16 months ago). Nothing to rival U2, but a very healthy sum nevertheless. And while Whiskeytown didn’t make Ryan rich, his ensuing solo career certainly has. How rich? Well, according to the mavens at CelebrityNetWorth.com, Ryan’s estimated net worth is $24 million — a sum that obviously includes revenue from more than just domestic record sales, such as touring, Tim McGraw’s country-hit cover of “When The Stars Go Blue” and all the weird places “Come Pick Me Up” has appeared over the years.

(UPDATE, 3/9/16: Probably as a result of Ryan’s divorce from Mandy Moore, CelebrityNetWorth.com has halved its estimate of his net worth — from $24 million down to $12 million.)

I should note that I’m not sure how trustworthy that $24 million figure is. Not that I know anything about net worth of the rich and famous; but if I’d been asked to estimate Ryan’s fortune before seeing this, I probably would have guessed somewhere closer to the $9 million that Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy is said to be worth. And yet it’s just as possible that $24 million is a conservative estimate because CelebrityNetWorth.com’s summary of Ryan’s career is woefully out-of-date (not to mention sloppy). Here it is verbatim:

Ryan Adams is a North Carolina-born singer-songwriter, musician, and author with an estimated net worth of $24 million dollars. Originally recognized for his work with the alt-rock group, Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams left to pursue a solo career, and has since released five solo studio albums. He also performed with The Cardinals until 2009, when he decided to take a break from music. He is most widely recognized for his song, “New York, New York”.

(Note: This entry has since been updated, but the revised version at that link remains just as clue-impaired.)

Actually, “five solo studio albums” is less than half of what Ryan has released since Whiskeytown disbanded; he’s put out two albums (one a two-disc set) and appeared in a movie since that “break from music” ended; even though “New York, New York” got played on TV at Thursday night’s NFL draft (cha-ching!), I’d still say that “Come Pick Me Up,” “When the Stars Go Blue” and possibly even “Lucky Now” are all better-known by now; and while I’m at it, as descriptions go, “alt-rock group” is a pretty crappy one for Whiskeytown. At any rate, between Ryan’s bottom line and the $23 million that his singer-actress wife Mandy Moore is worth, it seems safe to say he’s not sweating next month’s electric bill.

So how does Ryan’s estimated net worth stack up with what other celebrities are worth, you ask? Well, it’s a fraction of the fortunes of old-school superstars who have been at it for 30 years or more, including Paul McCartney ($800 million), Madonna ($650 million), Dolly Parton ($450 million), Mick Jagger ($305 million), Bruce Springsteen ($200 million) and Robert Plant ($120 million).

But Ryan isn’t too far behind contemporaries like Jack White and Drake, who are both at $30 million. I was actually surprised that Adele didn’t come in higher than $45 million. The next level up is Justin Timberlake at $100 million and Usher at $110 million. Higher still is Foo Fighters main man Dave Grohl (managed, like Ryan, by John Silva) with $225 million, much of which originated from his early-1990s time in Nirvana; and hip-hop icon Jay-Z is in a class by himself with $500 million. Throw in his wife Beyonce’s $300 million, and that’s a household with some serious financial juice.

Returning to Ryan’s relatively modest end of the spectrum, I was a bit surprised at some of the artists he’s well ahead of, including Patti Smith ($15 million), Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas ($10 million) and “Call Me Maybe” hitmaker Carly Rae Jepsen (and if you’re wondering what that level of one-hit-wonder omnipresence is worth, $1 million is apparently the answer).

Narrow the field down to musicians from North Carolina, and about the only one ahead of Ryan is Ben Folds at $35 million (if you don’t count Massachusetts-born James Taylor, $60 million). Another interesting detail is just how far Ryan is ahead of all of North Carolina’s “American Idol” stars, a delegation led by Chris Daughtry at $8.5 million. Clay Aiken is next at $4 million, while Scotty McCreery, Kellie Pickler and Fantasia all come in at $1.5 million or less.

I think the lesson to be learned there is that “American Idol” is more likely to convey fame than fortune. But I still wouldn’t mind trying to scrape by on the bank account of anybody on this list.

ADDENDUM (2/5/15): Here’s more detail from a website called CelebrityGlory.com, although I wouldn’t put much stock in any of their figures. To cite just one questionable example, I’m not sure what they were smoking to have concluded that Ryan’s “1984” limited-edition seven-inch generated the suspiciously robust sum of $349,650.

SECOND ADDENDUM (12/9/15): According to divorce papers filed by Mandy Moore, Ryan earns $151,000 a month — which comes to more than $1.8 million a year, while she claims to be scraping by on “less than a quarter of that” (and is therefore asking for $37,000 a month in spousal support). Anyway, maybe he is worth $24 million…

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Holland calling: Too Country and Proud off it

DrifterCountryI recently happened onto another interesting little “Losering” reference from overseas, although it’s not a full-fledged review. This one is on a blog called DrifterCountry.com, which bills itself as “Too Country and Proud off it”; and no, that isn’t a typo — note the logo here on the right. Anyway, my book gets namechecked in a Whiskeytown mini-history posted by “The Drifter.”  It looks to be written in Dutch, if Google Translate is to be believed; the translation is below.

Between this and an earlier review, I’d say there’s a groundswell building for a translated edition of “Losering” in Dutch. So how about it, UT Press?

DrifterCountryWTPeriodic spent Drifter Country attention to bands that have meant a lot for the alt-country genre. The appearance of an English book: Ryan Adams, Lose Ring, a Story of Whiskeytown was for me a good reason to pay attention to a band that has meant a lot for the alt-country: Whiskeytown. The group was active from 1994 to 2001 and finally three studio albums failed. Faithless Street (1995), Strangers Almanac
(1997), and Pneumonia (2001). Established in 1994 in Raleigh, North Carolina with frontman Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary, Phil Wall Cher, Eric Gilmore and Steve Grothman. But only Adams and Cary are featured on all three albums. The history of Whiskeytown’s turbulent called and the band structure is there only a limited part of. Already after the release of their first album Faithless Street on the Mood Food label get larger labels interested in Whiskeytown. Geffen Records signed the band and then in 1998 Faithless Street re-release. With the contract of Geffen pocket starts the tape recording of their first major release Strangers Almanac. During the recordings leave Gilmore and Grothman the group. Wall Cher makes the recordings but ultimately still get just after the appearance of Strangers Almanac from the band. The following is a messy period with many personnel changes that have an impact on the live sound of the band. But meanwhile Strangers Almanac well received by a wide audience and have magazines like Rolling Stone rave reviews. In this same year (1997) Mood Food brings an album titled Rural Free Delivery with remaining recording of the debut album Faithless Street. Whiskeytown continue touring and Ryan Adams shines in this period to more extreme behavior. The tensions in the band are up to a climax. In 1999 Whiskeytown Pneumonia on the album. It takes a while for the album finally in 2001 by Lost Highway Records is released. Whiskeytown is already history and Ryan Adams is widely acclaimed for its released in 2000, and never surpassed, solo album Heartbreaker.

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Rating Ryan’s catalog, top to bottom

StereogumListSo indications are that Ryan Adams will finally have the followup to 2011’s Ashes & Fire coming out sometime this year. An in-the-studio picture featuring keyboardist Benmont Tench and other players from Ryan’s circle has been making the online rounds; and the fansite Mega-Superior-Gold reports that the album is done, with A&F producer Glyn Johns again overseeing production.

Obviously, it’s impossible to predict where this still-to-be-titled album will rank in Ryan’s overall ouvre. But before everyone starts listening to the new one and assessing it, I’ve been meaning to do a post ranking Ryan’s catalog to date, inspired in part by a Stereogum listing from last year and a recent thread on the Ryan Adams Superfans Facebook page. Like Stereogum, I’ve limited this to officially released full-length studio albums only, and I also didn’t bother with the obvious metal-leaning stinkbombs Orion and The Finger’s We Are Fuck You (both tied for dead last, if you must know). Unlike Stereogum, however, I’m including Whiskeytown’s catalog — because that still stands as Ryan’s best work in my book, and I don’t feel like his career makes sense without it. But that’s just me.

1 — Strangers Almanac (1997). “Losering” includes a chronological discography, in which I write of Strangers, “All roads lead here.” Really, nothing else comes close to this sign of the times for Ryan, Whiskeytown  and the scene he came out of. I freely admit that maybe you Had To Be There for this to resonate as strongly as it does for me. But mark my words: Decades from now, this will be the record of his that people still come back to.

2 — Faithless Street (1996). Beloved kid-brother sidekick to Strangers, Whiskeytown’s Faithless Street is all the more wonderful for its raggedy flaws. The sound of youthful promise, rendered in an old barfly voice.

3 — Heartbreaker (2000). Ryan’s life and band were collapsing around him when he made his first solo album, at a time when he was wondering if he’d have to go back to the world of dayjobs. But Heartbreaker rose above the angst and trauma of its circumstances to stand as an unequivocal triumph. Another prediction: Give it enough time, and Heartbreaker will someday outsell Gold.

4 — Demolition (2002). Most of  Ryan’s hardcore fans take their cue from Ryan’s disavowal of this odds-and-sods compilation and dismiss it (and Stereogum also ranked it his third-worst). Nevertheless, it’s my favorite of his major-label solo works; I’ve gotten a lot more enjoyment out of it than I have from Gold, I’ll tell you that — and “Dear Chicago” never fails to stun.

5 — Cold Roses (2005). It’s funny to recall the smack that young Ryan used to talk about the Grateful Dead back in the day, because this plays like a direct descendant of American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead. Mellow and intermittently superb — but, yes, over-long. While super-fans are aghast at the notion of pruning its two-disc/18-song length, I still maintain that it could have been the basis of a single masterpiece album culled from the three he put out in 2005. I expect this kid would also disagree. But it’s all good.

6 — Pneumonia (2001). A grand pop experiment, and the high points are as great as anything Ryan has ever done with or without Whiskeytown. Ultimately, however, Pneumonia is a half-successful album that just doesn’t hang together, and some of it is downright half-assed (see: “Paper Moon”). Had the original 1999 version come out, that would rate a notch higher.

7 — Rural Free Delivery (1997). Released as equal parts contractual obligation and revenge by Mood Food Records (the independent label Whiskeytown left to go to the majors), RFD displays exactly as much care in its execution and packaging as you’d expect — as in, almost none. And yet the spark of these 1994 recordings can’t be denied, especially the four tracks comprising Whiskeytown’s 1995 debut EP. I also still love the countrypolitan take on Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown.”

8 — Love Is Hell (2003-2004). Where shit gets real, with an album that more than lives up to its title. Ryan was in a particularly dark place when he made this; and while it’s quite good, the obvious pain makes for a difficult listen. Love Is Hell remains an album I respect more than enjoy, but it certainly has its enthusiasts.

9 — Ashes & Fire (2011). I really wanted this to be spectacularly great, and for a time I think I fooled myself into believing it’s better than it really is (partly because it was such a vast improvement over its 2008 predecessor, the ultra-dreary Cardinology). With the benefit of hindsight, I’d call it a return toward form rather than all the way to form; a good record, but still not quite all the way there. Lovely as it is, I find it a touch too subdued. But “Lucky Now,” which strikes a perfect closing note in the movie “This Is 40,” is his best song in eons. There’s room to grow here, and hope springs eternal. I can’t wait to hear his next record, whenever it emerges.

10 — Rock N’ Roll (2003).  Though it was well-reviewed upon release, Rock N’ Roll has acquired a taint over the years. Most DRA purists would put it near rock-bottom (and Stereogum has it rated his second-worst; it also figures prominently here), but I think it’s better than that — Ryan’s new-wave tribute to Gold’s classic-rock homage, and the album he delivered when his label complained that Love Is Hell was too dour. I initially preferred RNR to LIH, but now I must admit that the latter has aged better.

11 — Easy Tiger (2007). To me, Easy Tiger feels like more of a compilation than Demolition, bouncing as it does between widely varying styles. But the high points, “Everybody Knows” and “Off Broadway,” stand among Ryan’s best songs. On the downside is “Halloweenhead” (ugh). And I still die a little whenever I hear “These Girls,” the abomination he rewrote “Hey There, Mrs. Lovely” into (go find the original version on the Destroyer bootleg instead). I must confess I kind of hold that against the rest of the record.

12 — Jacksonville City Nights (2005). I so wanted to love this. Still do, and JCN definitely has its defenders — Stereogum gives it a bronze medal while my fellow DRA obsessive Sharon insisted I give it another chance when I wrote dismissively of it. So I did; but alas, this album still just feels a little off to me. All the elements are in place, except for Ryan, who sounds like he wants to get back but can’t find the way. He sounds almost manic on “The End,” a song that still makes me cringe going on eight years later.

13 — Gold (2001). I once saw someone on Twitter call Gold “forced, like date night in a loveless marriage,” which I’d say hits the nail on the head. I can’t tell you how many arguments I’ve had about this record over the years. It would make my life ever so much easier if I just liked the damned thing — and Lord knows, I’ve tried. But even though it’s his commercial high point, I still find Gold to be a self-indulgent mess with some great songs (especially “When The Stars Go Blue”) lost amid too much dreck (especially “Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues”), made all the more frustrating by all the great songs he’d passed over to do this. Oh well. You say Gold, I say Strangers, let’s call the whole thing off.

14 — III/IV (2010). Outtakes from the period that yielded up Easy Tiger, and it has some decent individual songs. But I’d say it’s still for completists only. Being one of those myself, I gave it a more favorable review than it probably deserved upon release.

15 — Cardinology (2008). An album I really have to struggle to get through, because it feels absolutely stillborn to me; just sort of generic, some pretty songs here and there — but none of it sticks, which was worrisome because it left me wondering if Ryan had lost it completely. The first time I heard Ashes & Fire, I was almost ill with relief because it was such a huge improvement over this.

16 — 29 (2005). Yeah yeah yeah, it’s a concept album about Ryan’s 20s, with one song for each year. So what? While 29 has its proponents, I’ve always found it uninviting enough to make Love Is Hell feel like Up With People. My first thought upon hearing it was: All the amazing stuff he’s got in the vaults, and he puts out this? The years haven’t softened that opinion, either.

ADDENDUM: There must be something in the air because a writer named Jeremy Winograd is also grading Ryan’s catalog. He seems to write about Ryan quite frequently (and he was also kind enough to review “Losering”). His response to this list:

Can’t say I agree with all of your list — I think you overrate the Whiskeytown stuff a bit, though I can’t say I blame you for that, and I would definitely put Jacksonville City Nights and Easy Tiger higher. But like I said in my 29 review, part of the fun of Ryan’s catalog is that nobody seems to completely agree which stuff is good and which stuff sucks! Wading through 900 mediocre songs to get to the 100 great ones is all part of the experience, I guess.

SECOND ADDENDUM (9/14/14): Here’s another DRA catalog ranking.

THIRD ADDENDUM (2/21/17): Still another DRA catalog ranking.

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More fun with Google Translate: A Dutch treat

It used to be that when you published a book, you might get a review in a newspaper or two; a magazine, maybe — or an interview on television, if you were lucky. That’s probably still how it works for the Stephen Kings of the world. But for the rest of us, the untamed online frontier has an infinite number of places where one’s book might turn up, and I confess I’ve been obsessively looking for mentions of “Losering” out there.

Not all of them have been positive, of course, including this rather lukewarm assessment. A lot of the chatter is good fun, however, especially when it’s in a foreign language. Feed it into Google Translate, and a few giggles always come out. Like the one below, translated from Dutch on the altcountry.nl blog:

Ryan Adams is one of the main exponents in the alternative alt.countrywereld is beyond dispute. It is therefore not surprising that someone has taken the trouble to write a kind of biography. David Menconi is a journalist who wrote for No Depression among others. Accordingly he Adams repeatedly interviewed. Based on these interviews and conversations with people who in the past have had to deal with Adams, he sketches in the book, simply titled Ryan Adams, a portrait of the singer-songwriter. But the Ring Lose subtitle, A Story Of Whiskeytown, indicates that the focus of the book is on the period for Adams at solopad went. This choice was made for the fact that Adams since the autumn of 2001 did not want to talk to the author of the book. The reason is not clear Menconi but he suspects that it has to do with an enthusiastic review he wrote about the second solo album Gold. In any case, he has since then, except in a few email exchanges, no contact with Adams had. Under these circumstances it seems to me right that he has limited to the years before 2001. But unfortunately it is. Happily enough about those first years enough to tell.
The picture that emerges from the book is that of an extremely talented songwriter who the songs to speak out of his hat. On the other hand, you learn Adams also known as someone who is difficult with the pressure can go and loses himself in drink and drugs and all the misery that comes with it. At times a disgusting annoying guy who shows screwed. Just because it can. But also someone who knows how to capture emotional experiences in beautiful songs. Someone who is also not an easy childhood has had a turbulent love life. By the description of Menconi go back to listen differently to those three plates of Whiskeytown: Faithless Street, Strangers Almanac and Pneumonia.

Menconi with this book is not the definitive biography ‘of Adams’ life so far given. That could, given the previously written above circumstances, even (Adams has also tried to dissuade people with Menconi to speak). The book is more a personal look to become an important formative period in Adam’s life. A book that regard that period has ommissies. Thus, for example, I do not exactly clear why the punk rocker Adams suddenly a country rocker is. It is a great insight into the life of Adam in his time in Whiskeytown, his life in Raleigh, North Carolina and backgrounds are given to certain songs. Menconi has also made clear how it is that Adam in the later years suddenly with terrible metal plates and numbers came up.
But most important of reading this book is that it is me again to enjoy the best of what Adams has ever made: his music with Whiskeytown.

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