Posts Tagged With: Skillet Gilmore

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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Chris Stamey ties it all together

StameyLSBChris Stamey has always been one of those six-degrees-of-separation types in North Carolina, where it seems like he’s produced, mixed, worked and/or played with just about everyone in the state over the past 30-plus years. He made his initial reputation in the early ’80s with the dB’s (a band that has always had Beatles-like stature in my personal college-radio cosmos) before going on to a long and well-respected career in some of the artier circles of New York new-wave art-pop.

Then he came back home to North Carolina in the early ’90s, setting up shop in Chapel Hill as a studio guru and working with notable area acts including Tift Merritt, Megafaun and, yes, Whiskeytown. Stamey produced numerous Whiskeytown recordings back in the day, including the “lost” album Forever Valentine. He also worked on the sonic overhaul of the 1998 reissue of Faithless Street and produced Caitlin Cary’s post-Whiskeytown solo albums.

Stamey has spent a lot more time producing other folks’ albums than putting out his own music for the last decade, although he did find time for the first original-lineup dB’s album in 30 years last year. But he just released his first solo album since 2005, the very fine Lovesick Blues. For more on that, go here for links to a new interview and a 2004-vintage feature about Stamey’s doings.

And just to tie all this together, this poster was done by Caitlin Cary’s husband.

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Caitlin Cary sings for her supper

When it became apparent that Ryan would not be interviewed for “Losering” and I started trying to figure out who might talk, I had some high hopes for Whiskeyown fiddler Caitlin Cary. Sure, it would have put her in a difficult spot — which was nothing new, given that she had been Whiskeytown’s only other lineup constant for the entirety of the band’s existence (which she seemed to spend apologizing for the behavior of her bandmates). Still, if there was anybody who could maintain friendly relations with Ryan while talking to me, I figured it was Caitlin.

Alas, it was not to be. Caitlin demurred with the explanation that it just didn’t feel right to cooperate on a Ryan biography when he himself wasn’t participating; a disappointment, but I had to respect that. And the upside was that I had tons of vintage material from back in the day on Caitlin as well as her husband, Whiskeytown drummer Skillet Gilmore. So while it would have been nice to have a fresh perspective, at least I was able to quote them both.

Post-Whiskeytown, Caitlin has had a very fine career in a variety of guises starting with her solo act, which got off to a roaring start with her 2002 full-length debut, the aptly titled While You Weren’t Looking. I was delighted to write a lengthy No Depression feature on her when that album came out (although it probably didn’t help my standing with Ryan when I called WYWL “the best recording yet to surface from the remnants of Whiskeytown”). And Caitlin shared space with Ryan on the track list of Joan Baez’s 2003 album Dark Chords on a Big Guitar, which featured the ’60s folk icon covering her “Rosemary Moore” and his “In My Time of Need.”

Caitlin also recorded a very fine album with Thad Cockrell, 2005’s Begonias; and she is one-third of Tres Chicas, a vocal trio with Lynn Blakey (Glory Fountain, Let’s Active) and Tonya Lamm (Hazeldine, who were on the 1997 No Depression tour with Whiskeytown and the Old 97s). They’re a sublime trio of singers, the Chicas are, and still one of my favorite groups in the Triangle. They were also kind enough to have me write liner notes for their debut album, 2004’s Sweetwater, which I was honored to do. This is still my only venture into writing liner notes:

My favorite Tres Chicas moment: a warm spring night a few years back when I happened upon a pre-show rehearsal in the parking lot of a nightclub in downtown Raleigh. Tonya Lamm, Lynn Blakey and Caitlin Cary were gathered around the tailgate of a pickup truck with Chris Stamey, their producer and bassist, working out a few songs. The playing was loose, the harmonies sweet, the vibe amiable. A private moment, one freely shared with anyone who wanted to stop and listen. Even a train passing nearby couldn’t spoil the mood.

There’s always been a stolen-moment quality to the Chicas, who have had to make time for this group within the demands of their other bands, including Whiskeytown, Glory Fountain and Hazeldine. But Caitlin, Lynn and Tonya keep coming back to each other for one simple reason: They’ve never sounded better than they do with each other in the Chicas. And somehow, they found the time to make this record, which will put you in mind of friends getting together to sing just because it’s a good night for singin’ pretty.

Lucky us, that goes for tonight, too.

The Chicas have been semi-inactive for the past few years, back-burnered in favor of other projects. But they’re scheduled to play Nov. 3 at the Berkeley Cafe, site of my long-ago first interview with Ryan way back in 1995. Meantime, Caitlin is still busy with her latest group, The Small Ponds, which she leads with Matt Douglas. I think I’ll always feel like Ryan is her perfect vocal match, but Matt comes awfully close to matching that on their excellent 2010 EP. They’re playing Friday (Oct. 5) at Tir Na Nog in Raleigh.

The drummer for a lot of Cary’s projects has been none other than Skillet Gilmore, who has kind of turned into the Triangle’s answer to former Replacements drummer Chris Mars — drummer from semi-legendary band turns out to be an amazing visual artist. On the right here, one of the many show posters Skillet has done in recent years; and he’s also taken a venture into the political arena.

Can his own run for office be far behind?

ADDENDUM (4/26/15): Tres Chicas’ first show in many moons.

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