We give thanks for pockets of enthusiasm wherever they may be found — like Book Chase, a really nice book blog that is a labor of love for a gentleman (and Asleep at the Wheel fan) from Houston named Sam Sattler. He already had some very kind things to say about “Comin’ Right at Ya” around the time of Texas Book Festival back in October, and this is even nicer: Book Chase has “Comin’ Right at Ya” at No. 6 on its Nonfiction Top 10 for 2015, a notch ahead of Ted Koppel. Dig it.
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.
Alas, 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.
Photo by Martha Burns.
I’ve had some decent bookstore-type events over the years reading from this book or that. But every last one on the list just moved down a notch after Sunday afternoon’s Texas Book Festival ‘do with Ray Benson, where he and I talked about “Comin’ Right at Ya” for a pretty solid crowd of close to 200 folks at the State Capitol Auditorium. It really was great, which shouldn’t be surprising given that Ray is a natural born showman who is most comfortable onstage. As was the case with co-writing the book, pretty much all I had to do was keep out of the way, throw in a few straight lines and let Ray be Ray.
Moderator Doug Freeman did a fine job leading the discussion, in which we talked a bit about the mechanics of co-writing a project like this, and I said a few things along the lines of that recent Walter magazine essay. Ray had just rolled back into Austin from an out-of-town gig the night before and brought along an acoustic guitar to play a few songs — starting with the quietly reflective “A Little Piece,” moving on to the wink-and-a-nod humor of “Hot Like That” and closing with “Miles and Miles of Texas” as a rousing audience sing-along.
Photo by Rush Evans.
I spent most of my time onstage listening with everyone else while Ray told a few tales, some tall but pretty much all true. While I had a few quips to add, I was happy to cede the floor to Ray, who was entertaining even when calling me out for a mistake (apparently, a dog from Asleep at the Wheel’s Bay Area period was misidentified — sorry!). I think my most on-point contribution to the discussion came when I told Ray after a hilarious Dolly Parton anecdote, “Dude, you really need to do an audiobook.” I hope that will someday come to pass.
Afterward, we went out to the book-signing tent, where it seemed like everyone who had been in the auditorium wanted a book and both our autographs. We were happy to oblige. Can’t beat a hometown crowd, even if it hasn’t been my hometown for 30 years. But it’s still Ray’s town. Thank you, Austin. I’ll be back in March for South By Southwest, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
Photo by Jan Byrd.
I’m bummed to be missing Saturday night’s Yesterday’s News/Strangers Almanac show back home at Raleigh’s Berkeley Cafe. But I’ll be in a fun place, Austin for the Texas Book Festival, and at least there will be something decent to watch on TV that same night — “Comin’ Right at Ya” subject/star/co-writer Ray Benson playing on “Austin City Limits” with Asleep at the Wheel, alongside Sturgill Simpson plus guests including the Avett Brothers (with whom the Wheel will play on New Year’s Eve), Amos Lee and various Texas Playboys.
That’s cool, even if the timing of it is pretty ironic for yours truly: The book festival brings me to Ray’s hometown on the same weekend he’s on a television program I would have been able to watch from anywhere in the country. The Wheel and “ACL” go all the way back to the show’s very beginnings, episode no. 1 in 1976 (after Willie Nelson played the pilot), and the group has been on it enough times since over the years to be inducted into the “Austin City Limits” Hall of Fame this past June.
Anyway, check here to find exactly when and where in your area it will air. Here in Austin, looks like it’s on at 7 p.m. local time on public station KLRU-TV. And in the Raleigh/Durham vicinity, it comes on at midnight Saturday on UNC-TV.
Tags: Amos Lee, Austin City Limits, Avett Brothers, Berkeley Cafe, KLRU, Strangers Almanac, Sturgill Simpson, Texas Book Festival, Texas Playboys, UNC-TV, Yesterday's News
Sunday afternoon will find me anxiously wandering the halls of the State Capitol in Austin, trying to locate the right auditorium (Room E1.004) in time for my 4:15 p.m. appearance with Ray Benson at the Texas Book Festival. Being scheduled into the capitol building represents a nice upgrade from my last TBF go-round, in which I talked about “Losering” with a couple of my fellow music-book authors on the patio of a bar three years ago (an event that actually turned out just fine, despite my apprehensions).
Photo by Martha Burns.
Once Ray and I and moderator Doug Freeman (author of this week’s nice Austin Chronicle review) have assembled and the audience gathered, we’ll chat a bit about the whole book-writing thing in regards to “Comin’ Right at Ya” as well as Asleep at the Wheel’s long-running history. I believe Ray is bringing a guitar, so you can expect him to play at least a song or two. And if the audience has any questions, those will be entertained before Ray and I retire to the book-signing tent around 5:00. Margaritas to follow.
It’s entirely possible that this will basically turn into everyone in the room listening to Ray tell stories. Having spent a lot of time doing that over the past two years, I can just about guarantee that they’ll be worth hearing. It should be fun, and the fact that it’s free makes it low-risk — so come on out if you happen to be in the greater Central Texas vicinity.
Always nice to turn up in the Austin Chronicle — the weekly paper in Ray Benson’s hometown, and a publication I used to write for way back when I was a University of Texas graduate student 30 years ago. This week’s Chronicle has a “Comin’ Right at Ya” review that previews Sunday’s Texas Book Festival appearance, and I sure do appreciate reviewer Doug Freeman (who will also serve as moderator on Sunday) noting that I managed to “keep Benson’s trail of anecdotes on point without sacrificing detail or worthwhile digressions” — not to mention the review’s conclusion, that it’s “one helluva ride worth telling.” I’ll say!
Check that out here. And I hope to see some friendly, familiar faces down there this weekend.
As noted in the “Losering” preface, my story with Ryan Adams began at downtown Raleigh’s Berkeley Cafe, where I sat down to interview him after a show more than 20 years ago and things went kind of disastrously awry — a fitting metaphor for the whole story. The Berkeley has changed a good bit over the past two decades, shrinking down to just the Cafe space after the music hall was converted to a pipe/tobacco shop two years ago. But it remains a live-music venue; and with ownership by veterans of the late, lamented Sadlack’s, it’s still a repository of cool, funky vibes of old.
All of which is to say it’s fitting that the Berkeley will be the site of a very intriguing show this weekend, aimed at those with fond memories of Raleigh’s Whiskeytown era. As part of Guitartown’s “Cover Album of the Month” series, Jeff Mullins and Ryan Kennemur will perform Whiskeytown’s 1997 magnum opus Strangers Almanac on Saturday night under the name Yesterday’s News. And as you can see from the poster, it’s even free (although donations are encouraged).
Ordinarily, I would not miss this for the world. Unfortunately, however, it falls on the same weekend as the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas. So I’m afraid that being there in spirit will have to do, but you should go.
UPDATE (10/20/2015): And here is how it went.
“Comin’ Right at Ya” moves into the personal-appearance phase of the PR campaign this week with Thursday’s Books & Beer in greater Pittsboro, NC, where Eddie Huffman and yours truly will hold forth about various book-related matters. I was one of the editors who worked on Eddie’s “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” and “Comin’ Right at Ya” is my third book, so we’ll have plenty to talk about.
Better enticement: This will happen outdoors at The Roost, where the oven-fired pizza is very fine and the beer (dare I hope for Starpoint Brewery’s Whiskeytown beer?) is even finer. Buy a book — and there will also be copies of “Losering” as well as my long-ago novel “Off The Record” available — and it even comes with a free beer.
Thursday evening’s weather is supposed to be perfect, and for an added bonus we’ll have the excellent singer/songwriter Elliott Humphries there to do a few songs including selections from the John Prine songbook, the occasional Ryan Adams obscurity and maybe even an Asleep at the Wheel tune or two if I can talk him into it. I did a Books & Beer back in June with Tom Maxwell, and it was a great time. So come on out if you can.
Down the road a bit, I’ll also be at the Texas Book Festival on Oct. 18 (with co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson), and at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh on Oct. 21. I hope to see you at one of these if I’m in your neighborhood.
AFTERMATH: Books & Beer went great. Not sure if anybody else enjoyed it, but we did!
The 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. 18 — Texas 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.
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.