Posts Tagged With: Raleigh

Worlds colliding: My ‘hood is Asleep at the Wheel


Chris Boerner onstage at Raleigh’s Pour House nightclub with The Hot at Nights. Photo by Robert Pettus.

It’s always fun when acquaintances from different quadrants of my world brush up against each other, especially in far-away places. So it is that “Comin’ Right at Ya” star/co-writer Ray Benson is playing with Asleep at the Wheel tonight at a club in Pawling, New York, which is almost 600 miles north of my hometown of Raleigh. Opening tonight’s show will be Jeanne Jolly, a very fine Americana singer/songwriter from around these parts — whose guitar player, Chris Boerner, lives right around the corner from me. Chris is one of the coolest guitarists in this area and also plays with electronic soul group The Foreign Exchange and his own jazz band The Hot At Nights.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing a Ray Benson story or two the next time I bump into Chris around the ‘hood.


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Ryan Adams goes back to the future: 1989

TS1989So in case you missed it, Ryan Adams kind of broke the internet a couple of days ago when he started posting soundbites of his latest PaxAm Studio project. He’s been recording a cover version of Taylor Swift’s current megahit album 1989 in his Los Angeles studio, with various songs in the style of the Smiths and other unlikely sonic templates.

“Guaranteed saddest version of Welcome to New York ever — or your tears back,” Ryan tweeted, referring to his version of Swift’s second single from 1989 — and the entire rockpress music blogosphere went wild. Swift herself did, too, responding via twitter, “I WILL PASS OUT.

The whole thing is almost too adorable for words because (a) pretty much everybody loves Taylor Swift nowadays; (b) Ryan is kind of the perfect deconstructive genius to pull off a gimmick like this convincingly; (c) it’s perfectly in-character with his 1984 fetish; and (d) thanks to social-media buzz, it seems like there’s more of a chance we’ll actually hear the finished product this time than his never-released Strokes cover album from a few years back.

Nothing like a release date has been mentioned yet, but stay tuned. Meantime, despite the silly headline (“Grizzled Old Rock Music”?), this story is a pretty decent summary and also has some video clips.

Based on what I’ve heard so far, I’m thinking I’ll like this a lot more than Ryan Adams. And heck, maybe she can even talk Ryan into giving Raleigh another chance.

ADDENDUM: Here’s another update, with a preview of “Bad Blood” done Heartbreaker-style.

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“Strangers Almanac,” old enough to vote

StrangersThis can’t possibly be true, and yet it is. Strangers Almanac, the album I was certain would launch Whiskeytown to the toppermost-of-the-poppermost heavens way back when, was released 18 long years ago today.

An awful lot has changed since July 29, 1997. Whiskeytown is long gone, of course, Ryan Adams doesn’t live (or even play) in Raleigh anymore and his old hometown is so bustling nowadays as to be almost unrecognizable. But what hasn’t changed is that Strangers is still the best album Ryan has ever been a part of. And while I’m pulling for him, of course, I don’t see that changing.

Anyway, time for some binge-listening in this album’s honor. I might even dust this off and give it a listen again.

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Ten years after…

DRA6805Today, June 8, marks a notable double-digit anniversary, and I ain’t talking about Nancy Sinatra’s 75th birthday. No, today makes exactly 10 long years since Ryan Adams last played his old hometown. It happened about a month after the release of Cold Roses (the first of three albums he would release in 2005), drawing a soldout crowd to Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh, and it was an evening fraught with tension — but also release and redemption. There’s plenty more about that in the closing stretch of  “Losering,” as well as in this post.

“We hope to see you again very soon,” Ryan told the audience during band bows immediately following a ragged-yet-lovely encore version of “Houses on the Hill” with his old Whiskeytown bandmate Caitlin Cary. That night, there seemed to be no reason to believe this particular show would stand as any sort of final farewell. Yet Ryan has stayed away for 3,652 days now (taking leap years into account), going out of his way to pointedly avoid North Carolina even as this year’s tour schedule has had him playing in every adjoining state. As to why, the reasons seem both mysterious and complicated. I know an area promoter who tried to book Ryan several years ago, to no avail. The answer from his management was that Ryan has stayed away intentionally because while he has “moved on” from that chapter of his life, “North Carolina has not.”

I’m still not sure what that’s supposed to mean. If there are people still nursing grudges in the greater Raleigh vicinity, they’re far, far outnumbered by the legions of fans who would love to see Ryan here. And as I wrote in the “Losering” preface, Ryan is remembered more fondly in Raleigh than he may realize. Yet he chooses to keep his distance, and so it goes. I hope the boycott ends someday, and ends well.

If it doesn’t…well, I guess we’ll always have Meymandi.

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Charlottesville calling

Alas, no, I’m not in Charlottesville, Va., tonight — which is about as close as Ryan Adams is scheduled to get to his old hometown of Raleigh on his latest tour. But even though Ryan doesn’t come around to play here anymore (no matter how much his fans plead), at least other folks are kind enough to pay attention and keep me posted:

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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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Ryan Adams, 6/8/05 in Raleigh: This may be the last time

InternetArchiveA handful of shows loom historically large enough to warrant detailed discussion in “Losering” — especially June 8, 2005, which was the last time Ryan ever played in his old hometown of Raleigh. Hope springs eternal that he’ll come back to play Raleigh again someday, but that seems less likely the more time goes by; so 6/8/05 at Meymandi Concert Hall is what we’re left with. I reviewed the show for the News & Observer and took fairly detailed notes, which I relied on (plus memory) to recount the evening’s events in Chapter 16. But I hadn’t actually heard the show since the night that it happened, until recently happening across a recording on the Internet Archive.

The audio quality is pretty decent, yet it doesn’t fully convey what a strange and disjointed evening that was. You do get a sense of how much between-song wandering about the stage Ryan did, as his voice comes and goes depending on his proximity to an open microphone; but that means a lot of his manic babble happened off-mike, reduced to an inaudible murmur here. Still, listen closely and it’s possible to hear most of what’s described in the book: Ryan apologizing “in advance” to someone in the audience who yelled out an I love you early on, his cracks about being the clown he ordered and playing for an “audience hologram,” barbs at Robbie Fulks and Billy Corgan, bassist Catherine Popper commanding him to get out of her space and some excellent versions of songs from the just-released Cold Roses.

There’s also plenty I’d forgotten about, most notably just how ragged the closing five-song stretch with Caitlin was. Despite the had-to-be-there quality to it, however, I still think that raggedness fit. It was a wonderful moment. I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Ryan Adams’ “Lucky Now” plays out “This Is 40”

ThisIs40When I was in the process of finishing up “Losering” in the fall of 2011, Ryan’s Ashes & Fire album arrived like a gift from the heavens. I was writing a book focused on Ryan’s early years, and a recurrent theme of the closing stretch was his literal disconnection from that time. Then here came Ashes, on which Ryan sounded more like his younger self than he had in years. Best of all was this opening couplet from the album’s first single:

I don’t remember, were we wild and young?
All that’s faded into memory.
I feel like somebody I don’t know.
Are we really who we used to be?
Am I really who I was?

That’s “Lucky Now,” which tied up the whole “Losering” story with a nice little bow; I almost felt like I should send Ryan a thank-you note. But I settled for writing that “Lucky Now” put me in mind of Ryan going back in time with one of Charles Dickens’ Christmas-eve spirits to watch his own shadow stumble down Raleigh’s Hillsborough Street strip — only to stop short of the darkness and turn toward the light:

And love can mend your heart,
But only if you’re lucky now.

“Lucky Now” also gets prominent play in director Judd Apatow’s new romantic comedy “This Is 40,” a movie featuring an onscreen appearance by Ryan as himself. That was reason enough for me to see the film, but it was still a mixed experience. “This Is 40” doesn’t tell a story so much as overwhelm the viewer with endless wisecracks, banter and over-the-top assholery, much of which made me cringe even as I laughed out loud. While it’s likable enough, this isn’t the sort of film that sticks with you. The characters never get any deeper than paper-thin, and Apatow doesn’t seem to have anything particularly revelatory to say about encroaching middle age. If I were giving it a grade, it would fall somewhere in the B-/C+ range; decent date-night fare, that’s all.

But the Ryan Adams faithful will still want to see “This Is 40” because our hero’s music plays a prominent Greek-chorus role. About 45 minutes in, leads Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann attempt to rekindle the spark of their relationship with a romantic weekend get-away, set to Ryan’s “Shining Through the Dark” (which he played on “Conan” last week). And the movie ends with Rudd and Mann watching Ryan onstage, playing “Lucky Now” as a benediction.

It’s nice — and also a better closing note than the movie deserves.

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