Posts Tagged With: Rodney Crowell

Next up: “Woman Walk the Line”

WWtLNow that “Chrissie Hynde: A Musical Biography” is out in the world, attention here at the American Music Series turns to the next book up. And this will be an especially good one, “Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives.” It’s our first multi-author anthology in the series, with essays about everyone from Loretta Lynn to Rhiannon Giddens, and it’s a fantastic collection, thanks to the Herculean efforts of editor Holly Gleason. It may say, “Edited by Holly Gleason” on the cover, but “Lovingly sherpheded by” would be closer to the mark because Holly has done a spectacular job pulling this together.

One early fan is Americana icon (and noted author) Rodney Crowell — former husband of contributor Rosanne Cash, son-in-law of her essay subject June Carter Cash and longtime Emmylou Harris collaborator. He writes:

“‘Woman Walk the Line’ is tender, tough, raw, informative and emotionally intelligent, carefully framing twenty-seven of country music’s most evocative and enduring artists. It delivers truth and beauty on every page. I bow in earnest.”

Look for “Woman Walk the Line” in September as our fall release, and the 12th American Music Series book overall.

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Emmylou Harris is cooler than you (or anyone else)

EmmylouWhen I interviewed Ryan Adams after he’d moved to Nashville in 2000, he talked a bit about the city’s “cool” musical hierarchy, which he likened it to “Sesame Street.” Ryan himself was Elmo, Steve Earle was Oscar the Grouch, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings were Bert and Ernie. And Emmylou Harris, Ryan said, was Big Bird.

Yes, I laughed. Of course, that was just Ryan’s cheeky way of being funny. Harris has always been this sort of motherly goddess figure who inspires a sense of hushed awe over everyone she meets, and that’s as true of Ryan as anyone else. At that time, Ryan was still aglow from having recorded his Heartbreaker song “O My Sweet Carolina” with her (see Chapter 12 of “Losering”), a performance that stands among the best of her many vocal cameos over the years.

More than a decade later, Emmylou still seems like the unbelievably cool older sister everyone wants to grow up to be. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to her several times for stories over the years, and you can find two of those interviews here.

Also, lucky me, I got to review her Saturday night show in Durham with Rodney Crowell.

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Remembering the “Summer of ’69” at the Ryman

Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium figures into Ryan’s story as site of one of his most infamous onstage meltdowns, the “Summer of ’69” incident. Reports vary as to just what happened that night in October 2002, when Ryan played the former home of the Grand Ole Opry. But it started with somebody in the crowd keeping up a line of heckling that culminated with a mocking call for the mid-’80s Bryan Adams hit. Ryan got angry, words were exchanged and the heckler was either thrown out or moved to a seat farther from the stage, with Ryan reportedly giving the guy his money back.

Critic Peter Cooper reported on the incident in his review of the show in the Nashville Tennessean (visible here), which went out over the wire and caused a minor sensation that rippled far and wide. For a while back in Ryan’s former hometown, it became fashionable to yell out “Summer of ’69” at shows in Raleigh, as a mocking stand-in for “Freebird.” And Ryan’s alternative-country peer Robbie Fulks, who is always up for a joke, offered to reimburse the ticket price for anyone who made Ryan mad enough to get themselves thrown out of a show. A decade later, it’s still the one thing even non-fans seem to know about Ryan.

In one of his online post-mortems about the incident, Ryan later claimed that Cooper made the whole thing up for the purposes of sensationalism (which I don’t believe). He also had some harsh words for the Ryman, the fabled cradle of country music, swearing he’d never play there again (nevertheless, he has). See Chapter 15 in “Losering” for more on this. Nobody asked me, but I thought Ryan could have defused the whole thing by working up a speed-metal version of “Summer of ’69” to break out for hecklers; sort of like the black metal “16 Days” he did onstage last year. Oh well.

I don’t know where Ryan was on Wednesday night, but Cooper was back at the Ryman — onstage, one of several-dozen performers playing the Americana Music Association awards show. I’d never been to the Ryman before, so I had a fine time wandering around drinking the place in. It’s not too long on creature comforts, and the seating is hard wooden pews (it is a former church, after all). Nevertheless, the Ryman has a living, breathing vibe you can’t help but get caught up in, imagining all the legends who have played there over the years. The Opry  broadcasts moved elsewhere long ago, but here is where that spirit still lives.

I would have been content seeing anything at the Ryman just to go there, but man, did I get lucky. The AMA show was the stuff of dreams, a fantasy all-star revue: Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, John Hiatt, Rodney Crowell, Brandi Carlile, Alabama Shakes, Guy Clark, Punch Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jason Isbell…On and on.

It left me wanting to hear more from pretty much all of them, but still — wow. Coolest live event I’ve been to in recent memory. Highlights included the Punch Brothers’ acoustic skitter, as appropriate for a conservatory as a folk festival; the always-wondrous Thompson, one of the few guitarists I’d dare mention in the same breath as Doc Watson; and Alabama Shakes, who I’m still not completely sold on, but what a voice.

Best of all was the all-hands-on-deck finale, a version of “The Weight” led by Amy Helm in tribute to her late great father Levon. Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard blew the place out with her verse, but Raitt’s more restrained closing verse was even better, ringing loud and clear up to the heavens. I was misting up by the end, and I don’t think I was the only one.

ADDENDUM (2/9/2017): Ryan’s version of the incident.

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