Posts Tagged With: Strangers Almanac

“Losering” live: four for four

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Saturday marked 20 years to the day since Whiskeytown’s epochal Strangers Almanac album made its debut, so we marked the occasion with “Losering 4” — the latest installment of Ryan Adams tribute shows that happen here in Raleigh on a semi-annual basis. And it was another wonderful night with some fantastic performances.

Bobby Bryson (returning from the first “Losering” show back in 2013) got things rolling with a “Come Pick Me Up” singalong. Ryan Kennemur, the one performer to have played all four of these “Losering” shows, gave me a lump in the throat with “Jacksonville Skyline.” Garland Mason’s rendition of “Be My Winding Wheel” kept that going. Christiane and Eric Scholz were two of the best voices I’ve heard in recent memory, and they also showed great deep-cut attention to detail; Christiane’s take on “Enemy Fire” was nothing short of astonishing. Johnny Folsom 4’s David Burney put a Man-in-Black spin on “When the Rope Gets Tight (Don’t Fail Me Now).” And Antique Hearts and friends closed out the night with another spectacular start-to-finish rendition of Strangers Almanac, all 13 songs.

All that, and the show drew a very nice turnout that raised $750 for the Food Bank of Eastern and Central NC. Grateful appreciation and all credit to the musicians who played; and to Dave Rose, John Booker and the rest of the Deep South crew for making it happen. Once again: Thank you, friends.

Bobby Bryson
“Do You Still Love Me”
“When the Stars Go Blue”
“Come Pick Me Up”

Ryan Kennemur
“Jacksonville Skyline”
“Choked Up”
“If He Can’t Have You”

Garland Mason
“Be My Winding Wheel”
“Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.”
“Oh My Sweet Carolina”

Christiane
“Enemy Fire”
“Please Do Not Let Me Go”
“Bartering Lines”

Eric Scholz
“Do I Wait”
“Friendly Fire”
“Tennessee Square”

David Burney
“Lucky Now”
“Let It Ride”
“When the Rope Gets Tight (Don’t Fail Me Now)”

Antique Hearts, Strangers Almanac
“Inn Town”
“Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight”
“Yesterday’s News”
“16 Days”
“Everything I Do”
“Houses on the Hill”
“Turn Around”
“Dancing With the Women at the Bar”
“Waiting to Derail”
“Avenues”
“Losering” (prefaced by a verse of Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69”)
“Somebody Remembers the Rose”
“Not Home Anymore”
Encore: “Drank Like a River”

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Come Dancing (with the women at the bar)

BruxesThe first time I heard Rachel Hirsh perform her spooky version of Whiskeytown’s “Dancing With the Women at the Bar” was just over two years ago, at 2015’s “Losering 2: A Tribute to the Songs of Ryan Adams” show. It really was fantastic and I said as much at the time, writing that I thought it was something “she really should record.” I wasn’t the only one who thought so, and I’m happy to report that Rachel has indeed recorded a very fine version with her band Bruxes  — which is now out in the world; you can take a listen on Spotify, and buy it on Amazon.

The original version of “Dancing,” of course, first appeared on Strangers Almanac, Whiskeytown’s alternative-country landmark, which was released on July 29, 1997. That makes this Saturday the album’s 20-year anniversary, and we’re going to mark the occasion in style. That night, Raleigh’s Deep South The Bar will host “Losering 4,” with Antique Hearts playing Strangers Almanac from start to finish — which they pulled off with amazing aplomb last year, so it should be great. David Burney, Christiane, Eric Scholz, Garland Mason, Bobby Bryson and Ryan Kennemur are all on the bill, too, and yours truly will be there to serve as host.

Tickets are $7-$10, with proceeds again earmarked for the Food Bank of Eastern and Central NC. Come on out.

 

 

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The final countdown: “16 Days” vs. “Come Pick Me Up”

16CPMU.jpgAfter six rounds and 2,000-plus online fan votes, it’s come to this: the “BEST DRA SONG 2017” has a final matchup for all the marbles between a pair of No. 1 seeds, “16 Days” (from Whiskeytown’s 1997 masterpiece Strangers Almanac) and the Heartbreaker standard “Come Pick Me Up.”

There were other dark horses I was pulling for, including “Jacksonville” and “Dear Chicago.” But it’s hard to argue with the final pairing of these two particular signature tunes in the Ryan Adams universe — especially since they’re both from my favorite era of his, the Whiskeytown/early solo period that is the focus of “Losering.” I love both songs, but ultimately…I’ve got to cast my vote for “16 Days.”

Voting will be open through Saturday (June 24). Vote here; check the complete bracket so far below, or here; and for more on the methodology, see this interview with poll-meister Christopher S. Bradley. Also below, Christopher’s compilation of some of the comments and complaints he has received via social media.

ADDENDUM (6/25/2017): And here are the final results. My choice didn’t win, but I’m not complaining. Well, maybe just a little.

CPMU16D.jpgDRA BEST SONG FINALS RESULTS!!!!

Well y’all, after 322 people cast their votes in the final matchup, the winner, by a landslide, is Come Pick Me Up!

Many of you predicted this would at least be in the finals early on, and being one of his best known songs, it was. Here’s the final bracket.

Thanks again to everyone who participated and gave comments of support and constructive criticism along the way. Special thanks to David Menconi and Chris Migliaccio.

Maybe next June we will try this again, but mix it up a little 😉.
For now, I will post the results of this year’s bracket to a yet to be finished blog.

 

 

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“Garbage”-Some RAA commenter

“These aren’t even his best songs.”-A bunch of unoriginal commenters

“Where is *insert unreleased track*, that’s his best song.”- A bunch of snobs.

“Where is *insert track that lost*, I love that song.”-Pretty much everyone

“This is torture.”-Random DRA Superfans commenter.

“This is like choosing between two children.” -A bigger bunch of unoriginal commenters.

“How could YOU pick song A over song B.” -Several commenters too lazy to pay attention for the past month

“How does this even work, what’s a bracket?”- People from other countries where people go to college to learn, not play/watch sports.

“The Russians hacked the voting.”- Everyone living a
continuous nightmare from November 8, 2016 -Present

“Thanks for doing this.”-Those of you I actually like.

“Jason Isbell sucks!”- People without ears

 

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Twenty years after: “Losering 4”

Losering4Next month will make (gulp) 20 long years since Whiskeytown released its 1997 alternative-country landmark Strangers Almanac, and we’ll be marking the anniversary in style with another “Losering”-themed tribute show. Scheduled for July 29 — which was indeed the  release date for Strangers back in 1997 — “Losering 4” will feature Antique Hearts in a reprise of last year’s “Losering 3” show, when they played Strangers from start to finish with stunning precision.

Also on the bill will be David Burney, Christiane, Eric Scholz, Garland Mason, Bobby Bryson and Ryan Kennemur, all playing other songs from Ryan’s catalog over the years. If I may be so bold as to make a request, I’m hoping for a song or two from this year’s Prisoner.

I’ll be there to serve as host, of course, and the proceeds will benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. So pencil in July 29 for Deep South the Bar, and get tickets here.

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No Depression in Whiskeytown

Opinions shouldn’t be static or carved in stone, and two decades past Whiskeytown’s prime I do sometimes catch myself wondering: Were they really all that? And pretty much every time, something will cross my field of vision that feels like the universe answering back with a reminder: Um, yeah.

For example, there’s a vintage video that surfaced a few days ago, posted by Michael Niebuhr — the superfan behind the very fine and almost comprehensive archival Ryan Adams fan site Come Pick Me Up. This video is from a Whiskeytown show that captures an optimistic moment in time, the St. Louis date of the “No Depression Tour” sponsored by the magazine; April 5, 1997, and it’s kind of an only-in-St.-Louis artifact right down to Ryan’s nasty set-opening shout-out to Post-Dispatch critic Chris Dickinson over an unflattering Uncle Tupelo comparison (plus the onstage dancing cameo by Beatle Bob).

This is from the period that is pretty much the heart of “Losering,” shot when Whiskeytown’s major-label debut Strangers Almanac was recorded but not yet released. And even though Strangers wouldn’t be out for another three months, Ryan already seemed to be getting a little bored with it; that night’s set included just three Strangers songs to go with two from 1996’s Faithless Street, plus a cover of Iggy and the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and three “lost” songs that I don’t believe ever turned up on any other album before or since.

The audio quality isn’t great, and there’s not a lot of variety to the visuals. Nevertheless, you still get the idea of what a wonderfully shambolic mess of ragged glory the Whiskeytown live experience could be back then. I do, anyway. Your mileage may vary, but seeing this made my tired old heart go pitter-pat.

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“Solo Sounds” — Ryan Adams songs as you’ve never heard them

SoloSounds.jpgA few months back, I heard from Scott Ambrose Reilly, an old friend I first met many long eons ago back when he was managing roots-rock madman Mojo Nixon and answering to the name “Bullethead.” Nowadays, he’s involved in a very cool and offbeat new music series called Solo Sounds, which digitally releases cover versions of classic albums with the songs remade as solo instrumentals. His partner is longtime roots-rock god Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, and each Solo Sounds project comes with an unexpected twist — Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours as played on cello, Bob Marley’s Legend on marimba, Squirrel Nut Zippers co-founder Jimbo Mathus rendering the classic 1984 Replacements album Let It Be as solo blues guitar and so forth.

Scott told me they wanted to give Ryan Adams the Solo Sounds treatment with a set of his songs transposed to piano, an instrument Ryan rarely plays. So they came to me for input on which of his albums to cover, and that turned out to be a deceptively hard decision. The obvious choices would have been either Ryan’s 2001 commercial high-water mark Gold, or Whiskeytown’s 1997 magnum opus Strangers Almanac; but somehow neither felt quite right for this. So I suggested a third option, a Ryan Adams album that doesn’t actually exist: 29 Cold Jacksonville Roses.

As recounted in Chapter 16 of “Losering,” 29 Cold Jacksonville Roses is my 2005 mix for Ryan — an imaginary best-of with songs cherrypicked from the three albums he released that year (Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights and 29). Now I realize that the very idea of carving these albums up like this remains the ultimate act of apostasy in some quarters of DRA super-fandom. Nevertheless, I found it a fun exercise to select a track list and running order, imagining what might have been if these songs had been recorded as a single album-length unit.

DRA2005.jpgThanks to Solo Sounds, the Spotify playlist that was 29 Cold Jacksonville Roses now exists as Selections From Ryan Adams’ 2005 Trilogy, an actual unified body of work. The artist is Bette Sussman, a pianist with a long and illustrious resume — that’s her playing piano on Whitney Houston’s 1992 version of  “I Will Always Love You,” which was one of the biggest hits of all time. She shows a spare and elegant touch throughout Selections, beginning with the Cold Roses kickoff “Magnolia Mountain” and ending with 29’s “Night Birds,” and I think these versions have a nicely elegiac feel and a lovely flow from track to track.

Selections From Ryan Adams’ 2005 Trilogy is the third Solo Sounds album that Sussman has recorded, following a set of Elton John’s greatest hits and Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” soundtrack. The project also served as her introduction to Ryan, who she was not at all familiar with before being enlisted to cover his songs.

“That’s one good thing about this project, learning about people like him,” Sussman says. “I’m now a fan of Ryan Adams and I think he’s quite brilliant. Harmonically, this was a little simpler and easier to interpret than something like ‘West Side Story,’ which was about the hardest thing ever. But I really enjoyed learning this material  and putting my spin on his songs.”

The release date is March 24, and you can check out some samples here.

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Putting the anger in “Strangers Almanac”

Last night, I threw out a very silly (even by my standards) status on my Facebook page:

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Lots of folks replied with variations — “laughter in manslaughter,” “fun in fundamentalism,” “punk in punctual” and even “bomp in the bomp bomp bomp” — which made for some fun back-and-forth. But my favorite response by far came from Phil Wandscher, Ryan Adams’ old left-handed guitar foil in Whiskeytown, who made reference to his former band’s 1997 magnum opus:

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To that I say: Amen.

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Ryan Adams can’t fly or sink or swim

Last time I saw a Ryan Adams performance, this past March at South By Southwest, the setlist had no Whiskeytown songs. That’s pretty typical nowadays for Ryan, who rarely revisits his former band’s catalog. But every now and then, Ryan will dust off one of those old “Losering”-era songs just for the heck of it. Here’s one I just now belatedly happened across, from a 2014 show in Milwaukee — a version of the Strangers Almanac song “Yesterday’s News,” recorded with The Shining and complete with the namecheck tribute to one of the finer now-defunct nightspots in Ryan’s long-ago hometown of Raleigh. That made me smile.

“See you at the Comet,” indeed.

 

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Losering 3: Somebody Remembers the Rose

LoseringBoardWhile I wouldn’t exactly call it a headphones record, I’ve always considered Whiskeytown’s 1997 magnum opus Strangers Almanac to be more of a private home-listening experience than a live-performance artifact. It’s a truly brilliant album and one of my favorites, but it also has enough radical shifts in tempo, tone, mood and instrumentation to seem truly daunting to pull off onstage.

Nevertheless, I’m here to tell you that Raleigh’s Antique Hearts absolutely nailed it Friday night at our third “Losering” tribute show at Deep South The Bar. Playing the album start to finish and in order, they pulled off everything with an aplomb that left me awestruck, even the album-closing “Not Home Anymore” (which frontman Zach Gregory jokingly called “a studio song”). I cannot imagine how much work it took to get to this level; everyone involved did the material and themselves proud.

So did the opening acts, who both played some non-Strangers Ryan Adams songs. Shane Smith went deep into the catalog with “Wish You Were” from 2003’s unjustly maligned Rock n Roll, and also worked in Ryan’s arrangement of the Taylor Swift 1989 song “Shake It Off.” Ryan Kennemur went deeper still (assisted by Stacy Chandler in the role of vocal/fiddle foil) into the way-back Whiskeytown catalog with “Desperate Ain’t Lonely” and even “Lo Fi Tennessee Mountain Angel.”

All in all, it was another lovely evening, and it raised $724 for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. I expect we’ll do this again next year on or about the same date, July 29, for the 20-year anniversary of Strangers Almanac. Thanks to Dave Rose, John Booker and the rest of the Deep South staff for making it happen — and to Antique Hearts, who put a massive amount of work into getting this right and did it brilliantly.

AntiqueHearts

Shane Smith
“Firecracker”
“Wish You Were Here”
“Touch, Feel & Lose”
“My Winding Wheel”/”Shake It Off”
“To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High”

Ryan Kennemur with Stacy Chandler
“Starting to Hurt”
“I Don’t Care What You Think About Me”
“Angels Are Messengers From God”
“Desperate Ain’t Lonely”
“Bar Lights”
“Don’t Wanna Know Why”
“Lo Fi Tennessee Mountain Angel”
“If He Can’t Have You”

Antique Hearts, Strangers Almanac
“Inn Town”
“Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight”
“Yesterday’s News”
“16 Days”
“Everything I Do”
“Houses on the Hill”
“Turn Around”
“Dancing With the Women at the Bar”
“Waiting to Derail”
“Avenues”
“Losering”
“Somebody Remembers the Rose”
“Not Home Anymore”
Encore: “Drank Like a River”

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Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight

Losering3As covered at length in “Losering” as well as on this very blog, Whiskeytown’s 1997 masterpiece Strangers Almanac is an album I’ve never quite gotten over. Alas, Ryan Adams doesn’t seem to have much use for it himself these days, as evidenced by the fact that his current live setlist doesn’t include a single Strangers song (which is too bad, because those songs would fit his current bluegrass direction perfectly). Nevertheless, Strangers still means a great deal to a lot of Ryan’s oldest fans — especially those of us in his long-ago hometown of Raleigh, where it remains an essential local-music artifact.

This Friday, July 29, marks 19 years to the day since Strangers Almanac was first released, but I very much doubt that Ryan will mark the occasion in any way. So what the heck, we’ll do it for him. Friday night, Raleigh nightspot Deep South The Bar will host another “Losering”-themed tribute show, with Raleigh’s own Antique Hearts and friends playing all 13 Strangers tracks. Opening the proceedings will be Ryan “Showtime” Kennemur (veteran of the first two “Losering” events, in 2013 and 2015) and Shane Smith; yours truly also returns to serve as MC.

With proceeds earmarked for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, it’s for a good cause. So come on out and sing along if you’re in the vicinity, or even if you’re not.

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