Posts Tagged With: Vic Chesnutt

John Prine — out in paperback, in spite of himself

If a hardcover title subsequently comes out in a paperback edition, that’s a solid sign that the book in question book has done pretty well. So congratulations to Eddie Huffman, whose 2015 book “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” is the second American Music Series title to make the hardcover-to-soft transition (after Kristin Hersh’s “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” also from 2015 and our top-selling AMS book to date).

The “In Spite of Himself” paperback has a June publication date, but you should be able to find it in better bookstores already. And in an interesting twist, Prine himself has a book of his own coming out in June, “Beyond Words.”

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 11.32.22 AM.jpg

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Who owns Vic Chesnutt’s story?

Coming up on seven years since his death on Christmas Day 2009, the late great James Victor “Vic” Chesnutt remains a sadly obscure figure to the mainstream at large. He has his fans, of course, many of them quite famous. But that hasn’t been enough to spread Chesnutt’s reputation much further than the cult following he had when he was alive, and that is too bad.

The music Chesnutt left behind speaks for itself, 18 albums of rough-cut brilliance (1996’s About to Choke, which is Chesnutt at his most accessible, is a good place to start). If you’re interested in his story, I can’t help but steer you toward the AMS/UTP book “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt” by Kristin Hersh, a beautiful, harrowing and deeply personal portrait of Chesnutt written by one of the artist’s closest friends and fellow travelers.

And for an accompanying macro view, there’s a rough cut of an amazing little documentary film making the Youtube rounds — “What Doesn’t Kill Me: The Life and Music of Vic Chesnutt.” Assembled by obsessive Chesnutt fan Scott Stuckey, “What Doesn’t Kill Me” deftly captures the artist’s twisted charisma and onstage brilliance, with testimonials from numerous friends and fellow fans (including Kristin).

But Chesnutt was a complicated artist and human, who left an equally complicated legacy in his wake. So it’s not at all surprising that this film has been a source of controversy, even though it’s never been conventionally released. Over the past year or so, there’s been a heated war of words between filmmaker Stuckey on one side and Chesnutt’s widow, Tina Whatley Chesnutt, on the other.

Who is right? And will things ever be resolved enough for some version of “What Doesn’t Kill Me” to someday show in theaters? I sure don’t know. Nevertheless, I still appreciated seeing it, and knowing this film is out there for however long that might be. If you’re interested, I’d advise watching it sooner rather than later.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Fifteen minutes at No. 15 on the best-of-2015 list

NDTRRlogoWith Christmas approaching and holiday buying season in full effecthint, hint — yearend best-of lists are beginning to roll in. And I’m happy to note that “Comin’ Right at Ya” has made it onto a really nice countdown alongside some very choice company in No Depression’s book column, “The Reading Room’s Best Books of 2015” as compiled by Henry Carrigan (who was kind enough to include me in another column last month about bookish influences).

RayCover

“Comin’ Right at Ya” appears at No. 15 on No Depression’s top-40, right between legendary Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty and “Dean of American Rock Critics” Robert Christgau. Heck yeah, I’ll take that — especially since we quoted a few of Christgau’s “Consumer Guide” reviews of various Asleep at the Wheel albums in the book.

Being at No. 15 also puts “Comin’ Right at Ya” ahead of Chrissie Hynde’s memoir “Reckless” at No. 18; my American Music Series colleague Chris Morris’ “Los Lobos: Dream in Blue” at No. 20; Texas country icon Willie Nelson’s “It’s a Long Story: My Life” at No. 35; and (how about that) my idol Greil Marcus’ “Real Life Rock: The Complete Top Ten Columns” at No. 39.

As for the books at the top end of No Depression’s list, the No. 1 placement of Peter Guralnick’s exhaustive and much-acclaimed “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll” is no surprise. The same goes for Patti Smith’s “M Train” at No. 3 and Kristin Hersh’s gorgeously painful American Music Series title “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” plus memoirs by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon at No. 9 and Elvis Costello at No. 10.

I’d also like to note that it’s extremely cool to see my buddy Steve Knopper’s “MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson” come in two notches ahead of Ray Benson and me, at No. 13 — even though I don’t want him to be getting any ideas about that.

ReadingRmYearend

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

November brings another first: A two-for-one bonus

October has given way to November, but I’m still regularly checking in on the foursome that I call The Books of October. And while none of them are hitting the toppermost of the poppermost just yet (still waiting, world!), there are some encouraging signs along the amazon.

“Los Lobos: Dream in Blue” is up to 14 reviews on amazon, all of them perfect five-star scores. Enough favorable reviews have amassed for “MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson” to pull its overall amazon average above four stars. And “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt” is still getting great reviews on and off amazon (even, ye Gods, from Pitchfork — a truly unexpected pleasure).

As for yours truly, Team Benson/Menconi’s “Comin’ Right at Ya” has a half-dozen amazon reviews now, all of them five-star, which is a nice start. And in the process of checking up on it the other day, I noticed a brief interlude when I had not one but two entries in the top-20 of amazon’s country-books chart. It came to pass that “Losering” pulled within a couple of spots of “CRAY” — also in the vicinity of yet another friend, Barry Mazor’s Ralph Peer book (which I wrote about in the paper earlier this year).

As you can see below, screen-grabs of such moments are the stuff of cheap-thrill dreams.

DRACRAYamazon

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coming in March: Madonnaland, and The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul

MadonnalandI’ve had a blast on the “Comin’ Right at Ya” promotional front this month, including a very nice event Wednesday night at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh that drew a kindly attentive full house. I read a bit, took questions and repeated some of Ray Benson’s jokes, which tend to be a lot funnier than my own jokes, so it worked out great. Of course, I also couldn’t let the crowd go without getting in a plug for Kristin Hersh’s “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt.” I even told them that if they could only buy one book, it should be that one instead of mine (sorry, Ray, but know that we sold plenty anyway).

Everyone in the University of Texas Press orbit is still pulling for “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die” and the rest of our current titles to break out. Hope springs eternal, but pretty much all of that is out of our hands at this point. Meantime, work continues on getting the next round of American Music Series books out into the world. Coming in March are two books that will, at the very least, break us out beyond the Americana universe; and we have final titles and cover art on both.

MJB“Madonnaland And Other Detours into Fame and Fandom” is the third book by the fabulous Alina Simone, with a nice pink cover and a terrific testimonial blurb at the bottom from cabaret icon Amanda Palmer. You probably can’t read that here without a magnifying glass, so I’ll spare you the trouble:

“A profound and hilarious stream-of-consciousness funfair ride through the postmodern theme park of super fans, celebrity, taste, and capitalism.”

Nice! More to follow, I hope.

Alongside “Madonnaland” next spring, we’ll also have Danny Alexander’s “Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige” (which, title aside, nevertheless has a very dramatic cover). I’d say this is the most ambitious critical appraisal of the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul’s catalog that any writer has ever attempted. And I can’t wait for other people to get to read both of these.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kristin Hersh won’t suck, won’t die

VicDon’t get me wrong, we’re proud of how “Comin’ Right At Ya” turned out. Nevertheless, the undisputed highlight of this fall’s music offerings from University of Texas Press is a different book, “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt” by the wonderful author/musician Kristin Hersh — an American Music Series title that is seriously beyond great. And the cool thing about publishing a book by a working musician like Kristin is how neatly bookstore appearances can fit into a tour itinerary. To wit, below is her reading/show schedule for the month of October, when “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die” arrives in bookstores.

I hope a city near you is on the itinerary. And even if it’s not, please check out this book.

Oct. 1 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA (8 PM Performance)
Oct. 2 Highland Inn Ballroom, Atlanta (7 PM Book signing)
Oct. 3 Smith’s Olde Bar, Atlanta (10:30 PM Performance)
Oct. 4 Schuba’s Tavern, Chicago (8 PM Performance)
Oct. 5 57th Street Books, Chicago (6:30 PM Book signing)
Oct. 9 Boulder Bookstore, Boulder, CO (7:30 PM Book signing)
Oct. 10 Swallow Hill Music, Denver (8 PM Performance)
Oct. 12 Octavia Books, New Orleans (6 PM Book signing)
Oct. 14 Cactus Cafe, Austin (9 PM Performance)
Oct. 15 Book People, Austin (7 PM Book signing)
Oct. 16 Waterloo, Austin (5 PM Performance & Book signing)
Oct. 18 Cactus Music, Houston (4 PM Performance & Book signing)
Oct. 18 McGonigels, Houston (7 PM Performance)
Oct. 21Brooklyn Voices at St. Josephs College, Brooklyn (7:30 PM Book signing)
Oct. 26 Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco (8 PM Performance)
Oct. 27 Green Apple Books, San Francisco (7:30 PM Book signing)
Oct. 28 Nectar Lounge, Seattle (10 PM Performance)
Oct. 29 — Elliot Bay Book Company, Seattle (7 PM Book signing)
Oct. 30 Powell’s City of Books, Portland (7:30 PM Book signing)
Oct. 30 McMenamins Theatre, Portland (10 PM Performance)
Nov. 1 Book Soup, Los Angeles (4 PM Book signing)
Nov. 1 The Echo, Los Angeles (7:30 PM Performance)
Nov. 4 New England Mobile Book Fair, Boston (6:30 PM Book signing)

ADDENDA: Kind words from Salon, and even (ye Gods!) Pitchfork. And here it is in Rolling Stone’s year-end top-10.
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Also comin’ right at ya: “Madonnaland”

MadonnalandSo I’m gearing up for this October’s release of the Ray Benson/Asleep at the Wheel book, “Comin’ Right at Ya” — which is being published by University of Texas Press, but is not actually part of the UT Press American Music Series that I co-edit. Things are coming along on various fronts with the AMS, too, including two very fine books coming out this fall. I’m especially psyched to see the reaction to Kristin Hersh’s “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” a book I think is scary good.

Looking forward to next year, spring 2016 will bring the publication of the series’ first venture outside the Americana universe with “Madonnaland and Other Detours Into Fame and Fandom.” It’s the third book by the fabulous Alina Simone; here on the right is the title-page design, which I find quite elegant and cool-looking.

Alina put a huge amount of work into “Madonnaland,” which I had the pleasure of co-editing. Her manuscript improved immensely from draft to draft, and it was well worth the effort because we’re all really proud of the result. It’s an ambitious book that’s less about Madonna than the nature of fandom, tribalism and obsession, all of which she ties together with aplomb. Alina being Alina, the writing is fantastic, of course (and if you’ve never read her first book, you need to rectify that right now).

This is gonna be good.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

…And a time to publish: Los Lobos

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 3.59.21 PMMeanwhile, the American Music Series rolls on as we strive to achieve critical mass (we hope!). Eddie Huffman’s “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” is officially published as of this week; and here is the cover for another of our upcoming titles, “Los Lobos: Dream in Blue” by Chris Morris. That will be out in October from University of Texas Press, at the same time as “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt” by Kristin Hersh.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hello in there: More From UT Press

PrineEddie“Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown” was published in the fall of 2012 as the second book in University of Texas Press’ American Music Series (following Don McLeese’s “Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”), and it’s taken a while for us to get it going. As originally envisioned, we’re supposed to be putting out four AMS titles a year — two every spring, two every fall. Some right fine books have come out on Merle Haggard in 2013 and the Flatlanders in 2014, but we haven’t been able to maintain that schedule. Finally, however, we’ve found our footing enough that the pace of publication is about to pick up.

First off, the next American Music Series book coming out will be “John Prine: In Spite of Himself” by my fellow North Carolina music journalist Eddie Huffman. The official publication date is March 15, and it’s our series’ first book to come out in a hardcover version (also, it’s the first with an actual photograph of the subject on the cover). I was one of this book’s primary editors and the process wasn’t always easy. As Eddie writes of me in the book’s acknowledgements, tongue planted firmly in cheek, “He and I are probably both glad he won’t have to ask me ‘How are the rewrites coming?’ next time we cross paths at Cat’s Cradle or the PNC Arena.”

UTPressLogoBut my peskiness and his hard work paid off with a book we’re all quite proud of. And so far, the early pre-release response has been gratifying indeed. “In Spite of Himself” picked up a very fine review in Publishers Weekly, which also named it one of this spring’s most-anticipated books. Kirkus weighed in with a nice review, too, and there are a number of other reviews and reading-type events in the works as well. Eddie’s blog will be the place to keep up with all of that, so bookmark it. I think Eddie did a fantastic job on this book, and I hope you’ll like it.

Beyond that, here’s what else is on the AMS schedule so far:

October 2015

“Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt,” by Kristin Hersh
“Los Lobos: Dream in Blue,” by Chris Morris

Spring 2016

“Madonnaland,” by Alina Simone
Mary J. Blige (title to come), by Danny Alexander

Fall 2016

T-Bone Burnett (title to come), by Lloyd Sachs

Spring 2017

Chrissie Hynde (title to come), by Adam Sobsey

To be scheduled

Tom Jones (title to come), by Jon Langford

The book on the list I’m most excited about is “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt” by Kristin Hersh, leader of the band Throwing Muses and one of Chesnutt’s closest friends. I was blown away when I saw her manuscript because it’s spine-tinglingly brilliant, the best book of any sort I’ve read in years. Seriously, it gave me chills. I’m thrilled to be a part of that one, and I can’t wait for everyone else to read it.

Meanwhile, you might notice that yours truly is not on the AMS schedule anywhere. But I do have a book coming out on UT Press in October, one I think turned out really well. It’s called “Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel,” which I co-wrote with Asleep at the Wheel founder and guiding light Ray Benson. I’ll have more to say about this project later, but for now there’s a bit more about it here.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

News about the American Music Series, and me — I’ll be Asleep At The Wheel

So “Losering” is still semi-current and getting some attention here and there; I’m curious to see whether or not the next Ryan Adams album (whenever one emerges) might generate some more interest. But the book has been out there for more than six months, which means it’s high time to move along to the next thing. I’m happy to have some news about that, as well as the University of Texas Press American Music Series.

RayBensonMy next book will be co-writing a memoir with Ray Benson, founder and guiding light of the Western swing band Asleep At The Wheel, and it’s a project I could not be more excited about. I grew up in Texas during the ’70s progressive-country era, and I wrote my UT Master’s thesis about the Armadillo World Headquarters. I’ve always had a soft spot for that era’s icons, and as icons go Ray is one of the best — a fantastic musician and raconteur who, as the saying goes, has been around the world twice and talked to everybody at least once. This should be a raucous good time.

So that’s what I’ll be working on for the next year or so. While the Benson book is also for UT Press, this one won’t actually be part of the UT Press American Music Series. But work there continues apace. As mentioned previously, David Cantwell’s “Merle Haggard: The Running Kind” is next up, out in September, to be followed by John T. Davis’s “The Flatlanders: One More Road” in 2014. I’ve been asked to keep mum about several other titles in the works, but here are the ones in the pipeline that I can tell you about:

Los Lobos, by Chris Morris
John Prine, by Eddie Huffman
Vic Chesnutt, by Kristin Hersh
Ray Charles, by David Cantwell
Mary J. Blige, by Danny Alexander
Madonna, by Alina Simone

Obviously, the last two names are what jump off that list, possibly leaving you to wonder what the heck is going on here. Thus far the American Music Series has had an Americana focus, which is not surprising given that it’s an outgrowth of No Depression magazine. But the series is still developing an identity, and the truth is that we were always going to have to broaden it in terms of both styles and approaches to make it work. Thus, Mary J. Blige and Madonna.

UTPressLogoNow it’s certainly possible that American Music Series might eventually come to mean just “books about music.” Nevertheless, even though Blige and Madonna are both outliers (and probably as far as I’d care to go in this direction), I think you can build a case for both being a better fit than they might seem at first glance. Blige, The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, is firmly grounded in the r&b tradition, and I’ve always thought of her as more soul than hip-hop. A decade from now, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she were singing straight-up gospel because such an evolution would make perfect sense.

That brings us to Madonna, who is admittedly more of a stretch. But I think the real draw here will be Alina Simone, one of the most exciting new writers out there. I first met Alina a few years back when she lived in Chapel Hill and was playing intriguingly dark indie-rock along the lines of Cat Power and PJ Harvey. She really found her voice on 2008’s Everyone Is Crying Out To Me, Beware, a tribute album to the late “Yanka” (Soviet-era punk icon Yana Stanislavovna Dyagileva, who is Russia’s answer to Patti Smith). Sung entirely in Russian, Beware is a fascinating album with an even-more-fascinating back-story; you can read some of it here or here. Better still, read Alina’s wonderful 2011 memoir “You Must Go and Win.”

If Steve Earle, Jon Langford or another writerly Americana icon wanted to write a book for our series, I think we’d jump at the chance even if the subject they proposed fell outside the Americana universe. While Alina doesn’t have as high a musical profile as those two, she’s still part of this century’s indie-rock flock — someone that No Depression probably would have been reviewing if the magazine were still publishing when Beware came out. I think Alina’s idiosyncratic take on a cultural icon like Madonna will make for a great book. I can’t wait to read what she comes up with, and to be a part of sharing it with you.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.