Posts Tagged With: Quail Ridge

“Step It Up and Go” — literally onscreen

StepWell, folks, I can tell you this: There are better times to publish a book than in the midst of a ravaging worldwide pandemic and catastrophic economic meltdown. Still, we’re doing what we can to mark this fall’s rollout of “Step It Up and Go” — coming Oct. 19 from the fine folks at UNC Press.

Alas, a number of scheduled in-person events have come and gone from the calendar, like the “Step It Up and Go” stage I was going to curate and emcee for one day of the NC State Fair. So we’re pressing on with online virtual events. Below is what we have on the books so far; more events are in the works, so please continue checking here for schedule updates.

Meanwhile, UNC Press has begun rolling out the multi-media promotional stuff, starting with this short preview trailer below. A longer one is in-progress and will be coming soon, too. Check that out and I hope to cross paths with you sometime, virtually if not physically.


Readings and Events

Tuesday, Aug. 25 (7 p.m.) – Virtual event with novelist David Goodwillie and writer/musician Kelly Crisp, via Page 158 Books, Wake Forest.

Sunday, Sept. 13 (10 a.m.) — Interview on Little Raleigh Radio.

Wednesday, Oct. 14 — “History @ High Noon” talk on beach music, virtual event via North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh.

Monday, Oct. 19 (7 p.m.) — Virtual event with Scott Huler via Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh.

Wednesday, Oct. 21 (6 p.m.) — “UNC Press Presents” virtual event via Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville.

Saturday, Oct. 24 — Record Store Day at Schoolkids Records, Raleigh.

Thursday, Oct. 29 (6 p.m.) — Virtual discussion with Jon Wurster and Tom Maxwell via Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill.



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Quail Ridge founder Nancy Olson, rest in peace

QRlogoWhen my first book “Off The Record” came out back in 2000, it was self-published. Having to go the DIY vanity-press route didn’t exactly fill me with confidence when it came time to call bookstores to ask if they’d let me do readings. So it was a pleasant surprise to find so many supportive bookstores around greater Raleigh, especially Nancy Olson’s Quail Ridge Books and Music.

Quail Ridge was the first place I ever did a reading. Unaccustomed as I was to speaking in public in front of people, I was kind of terrified at the prospect. But Olson and staff were kind, indulgent and willing to hold my hand and get me through it. For a krill-sized speck in the literary firmament like me, getting to do a reading at all in the same store as David Sedaris, Peter Guralnick and Charles Frazier was a big deal. And to actually be treated well there was unbelievable.

Since then, I’ve done enough readings at Quail Ridge for it to feel like my home court. The best “Losering” event in 2012 happened there, and we also had a really nice “Comin’ Right at Ya” reading at Quail Ridge last fall. I’ve seen dozens of other authors there over the years, too, local friends as well as visiting big-shots from out of town. It’s always been the best sort of artistic community space for readers as well as writers, continuing under new owner Lisa Poole after Olson sold the store and retired in 2013. Even on Planet Amazon, you can’t beat having a physical place for like-minded spirits to gather.

Olson has been battling kidney disease for several years and passed away early Sunday morning at age 75, which is a loss for anyone who loves books. But I am heartened from a detail at the end of this very fine obit — that she was reading until the end. That’s fitting.

ADDENDUM (4/10/2016): A most lovely remembrance by the great Allan Gurganus.

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Coming in March: Madonnaland, and The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul

MadonnalandI’ve had a blast on the “Comin’ Right at Ya” promotional front this month, including a very nice event Wednesday night at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh that drew a kindly attentive full house. I read a bit, took questions and repeated some of Ray Benson’s jokes, which tend to be a lot funnier than my own jokes, so it worked out great. Of course, I also couldn’t let the crowd go without getting in a plug for Kristin Hersh’s “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt.” I even told them that if they could only buy one book, it should be that one instead of mine (sorry, Ray, but know that we sold plenty anyway).

Everyone in the University of Texas Press orbit is still pulling for “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die” and the rest of our current titles to break out. Hope springs eternal, but pretty much all of that is out of our hands at this point. Meantime, work continues on getting the next round of American Music Series books out into the world. Coming in March are two books that will, at the very least, break us out beyond the Americana universe; and we have final titles and cover art on both.

MJB“Madonnaland And Other Detours into Fame and Fandom” is the third book by the fabulous Alina Simone, with a nice pink cover and a terrific testimonial blurb at the bottom from cabaret icon Amanda Palmer. You probably can’t read that here without a magnifying glass, so I’ll spare you the trouble:

“A profound and hilarious stream-of-consciousness funfair ride through the postmodern theme park of super fans, celebrity, taste, and capitalism.”

Nice! More to follow, I hope.

Alongside “Madonnaland” next spring, we’ll also have Danny Alexander’s “Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige” (which, title aside, nevertheless has a very dramatic cover). I’d say this is the most ambitious critical appraisal of the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul’s catalog that any writer has ever attempted. And I can’t wait for other people to get to read both of these.

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Quail Ridge calling


Photo by Phyllis Gordon.

Following last weekend’s Texas Book Festival triumph, the next “Comin’ Right at Ya” event happens Wednesday evening (Oct. 21) at the closest thing I have to a home court, Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh. We even got a nice preview blurb about it from the local weekly.

QuailRidgeAlas, I’m afraid it will be just me this time without Ray Benson, so there won’t be nearly as much comedy and the only music played will be of the pre-recorded variety. I might read just a bit, but I’m hoping this will be more of a two-way conversation than a one-way presentation. And if you want your book signed, I’ll leave room for Ray’s signature, too, in case you want to get him to sign your copy the next time Asleep at the Wheel plays around these parts.

During the “Losering” run back in 2012, the Quail Ridge reading was probably the peak promotional experience, so I’m hoping for a nice turnout. It should get going around 7 p.m. Please do come join the discussion, if you can.

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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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Publication day!

Today, Oct. 1, is the “official” publication date for “Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel.” I’m marking the occasion here because I won’t have any time for celebrating. Today will find me scurrying around all day and long into the night covering the big World of Bluegrass festival here in Raleigh, which is keeping me plenty busy this week — especially with Hurricane Joaquin apparently bearing down on us. Fun!

As for how co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson will mark his authorial debut, it should come as no surprise that he’ll do it onstage. Asleep at the Wheel is playing its traditional opening slot for this weekend’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, taking the stage just after noon Central Time Friday.

Down the road a bit, Ray and I will both do some bookstore-type events, separately as well as together. You can find me Oct. 8 at Books & Brew in Southern Village and Oct. 21 at Quail Ridge in Raleigh; and Ray is doing a hometown reading at Austin’s Book People on Nov. 18. And on Oct. 18, Ray and I will also appear together at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, at the State Capitol Auditorium.

Y’all come!

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Bookstore love


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.


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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Tom Cushman, lazy star

When I was doing interviews for “Losering,” I caught a break when Thomas Cushman surfaced as one of Ryan’s early confidantes who was willing to talk — and he had some great memories of the old days. Tom and Ryan were roommates and Rathskeller co-workers in the early 1990s, and they played together in a series of short-lived groups. Then Ryan went on to Patty Duke Syndrome and Whiskeytown, while Tom went on to play in the punk band The Chickens. Two decades on, he still remembers Ryan with great fondness.

“I think Ryan stepped on a few toes around here, but I’m proud of him,” Tom said in a 2011 interview. “I have a lot of respect for what he’s done. He was a young kid who knew what he wanted, and he did it. He’s done well for himself. I can’t believe the goofy space-boy I used to hang out with is where he is now. We never did anything seriously bad, though. Drank like fish, of course. Smoked gallons of pot, did a lot of speed.”

They also recorded incessantly. God be praised, Tom still had a lot of those old tapes, and he was willing to share. It was great fun to sit in Tom’s apartment and listen as he provided commentary about long-ago bands like American Rock Highway, Ass and Knife. But my favorite memory was Tom reacting to a spoken exchange he and Ryan had while recording as Lazy Stars. During a pause between songs, Ryan asked Tom if his lyrics were understandable. “Not really,” Tom said. Unfazed, Ryan pushed on and asked his next question with charming eagerness:

“Do I sound like I mean it?”

Hearing this again nearly 20 years later, Tom burst out laughing. “Man,” he said, “is that Ryan or what?”

No doubt. You’ll find more about this period in chapter three of the book. Meanwhile, Tom no longer lives in Raleigh, having moved away this past September to Portland, Ore. But I am honored to report that his final act as a Raleigh resident was to stop by my Quail Ridge reading on his way out of town. The copy I gave him was the first one I signed that night.

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People put the nicest pictures on their Twitter feed…

…I think so anyway. Anyway, here’s where one of the copies of “Losering” that I signed at the Quail Ridge reading wound up –1,700 miles away from Raleigh in Boulder, Colo., one of my favorite towns. I especially like this because I used to live in Boulder and write for the Daily Camera, eons ago; that was my first job out of grad school, as well as my last one before coming to the News & Observer almost 22 years ago. Very kind of Camilla to “buy locally” from afar, and send back to Raleigh’s Quail Ridge to get an autographed copy.

They still have autographed copies at Quail Ridge (as well as The Regulator in Durham), Christmas is coming and they make a great gift. Just sayin’.

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Reading rainbow

Photo courtesy of Kevin Currin

Major thanks to everyone who came out for the first two “Losering” readings, this past Thursday at Quail Ridge in Raleigh and Friday at Flyleaf in Chapel Hill. They were both lovely events with attentive audiences, especially Quail Ridge, although that night got off to a somewhat unpromising start. I read a passage, which seemed to go over well enough, and then I asked for questions. The only person to raise a hand was a young man who apparently thought I was Ryan Adams.


The thought flashed through my mind that this was going to be a long night — or, worse, a very short one. Fortunately, as I tried to explain that I just wrote a book about Ryan and could take no credit for his songs, I spied a rock star in the house. Bless his heart, Mr. Kenny Roby showed up; I was surprised and touched to see him there. So I gave Kenny a shout-out and a plug for his show the next night.

After that, the next hour flew by with lots of fine and thoughtful questions about the book and Whiskeytown and Ryan, leaving just enough time for me to sign a stack of books in a flurry before closing time. My great and loyal friend Scott Huler also threw an after-party where his band the Equivocators played a few Whiskeytown songs including “Faithless Street” and “Midway Park.” It was truly, truly awesome, and a big honor — a night I’ll never forget.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Lee

Friday night at Flyleaf didn’t draw quite as big a crowd; didn’t help that the heavens opened up just before showtime. But there was still a nice nucleus of folks — including Glenn Boothe, owner of Chapel Hill’s Local 506, a club where I saw Ryan play one of his best-ever solo shows in October 1999 (recounted in chapter 11 of the book); Steve Balcom, who used to run the aforementioned Mammoth Records, where the Backsliders recorded back in the day; and noted computer guru/poet Paul Jones. My American Music Series co-editor Peter Blackstock did the introduction, and I was glad to have him there.

The next readings will be Thursday (Oct. 4), at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Bull’s Head at 3:30 p.m. followed by The Regulator in Durham at 7 p.m. So if you’re over that way, please do come out and say hey.

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