Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ryan Adams: Rock N Roll

Rock N Roll.... loud, unfiltered, adored, maligned, epic.

But before I get into all that, you must know that Rock N Roll was not intended to be the follow-up record to Demolition (neither was Demolition Ryan's proposed record, but I digress). In 2002, Ryan began a transition, some might say a regression, toward a heavier sound. Full electric lineups turned up to 11. He formed yet another punk band, The Finger, with Jesse Malin and a few others under a pseudonymous shield. Ryan (Warren Peace) provided dirty guitar. They released 2 EP's - which I have - but will spare your ears the posting of them (check out the page for full artwork/credits).

Sensing the inevitable sound transformation, Ryan wanted to record one more (last?) down-tempo, sentimental album. Love Is Hell was recorded in New York in 2002 - more on this in the future - but was not accepted by Lost Highway. They reportedly complained that the collection was "too alternative," "incredibly depressing," and "not your best stuff." Again, the label wanted Ryan to recreate the success of Gold, most-likely telling him to create more of a rock and roll sound. Ryan took that and ran.

Straight back to the studio with a group of friends, Ryan recorded what would be a metaphorical slap-in-the-face to Lost Highway: A record spitefully entitled Rock N Roll. The set is blatant, forceful rock that is the furthest overlap of Ryan's therapeutic but never-serious side projects into his 'real' work.
"Rock N Roll is unadulterated--it's the way I play guitar live. It's the exact sound I always use when I make the demonstration recordings for my records. The other albums are concept records a little bit, but I wasn't trying to reference anything here." - Ryan Adams
Present in the studio during the two-week recordings were Smashing Pumpkins/Hole bassist Melissa Auf de Maur, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong - whom Ryan shockingly resembled during this time - and his then love interest Parker Posey.

R&R isn't shy in expressing it's contempt, both lyrically and musically. Powerful guitar riffs become instant classics in songs like 'Shallow,' 'Wish You Were Here,' 'So Alive,' and 'Do Miss America.' Most songs on the collection end in huge crescendos of drums, vocals and reverb. That is, except one. Keeping with the sarcasm theme, the title track is the only cut to not feature amped-up guitars. This depressingly slow ballad features only Ryan on piano and vocals:

"Everybody's cool playin' rock and roll.
Everybody's cool playin' rock and roll.
I don't feel cool, feel cool at all.
I don't feel cool, feel cool at all."

'Rock N Roll' concludes with a grainy voice mail from a terrified Courtney Love. The barely discernible audio may have helped to spurn the recent lash-out from the troubled songstress in which she accused Ryan of draining all of her daughter Frances Bean Cobain's trust fund. The money was allegedly used to fund studio costs, guitars, expensive dinners at Nobu, and plenty of speedballs. She claims that the costs added up to a cool $858,000 and goes on to completely bash the album itself, calling it "one of the worst recordings [she's] ever heard." Read the entire, ridiculous thing here.

Ryan's left-handed sarcasm shows through only in somewhat lackluster writing. Nearly every song concludes with repetitions of cliché rock phrasing - "just like magic" "wish you were here" "the drugs ain't working" "taking me higher!" This element is frighteningly similar to the problems I had with Cardinology, but on Rock N Roll, it all works to add up to an effective statement of defiance toward authority. And that's the ultimate goal of rock and roll, right?
"Well, I wasn't arrogant in the beginning; I was naive. I didn't know to not speak about my music like I totally believed in it."

Read the whole interview, conducted by Parker Posey.

Now for the good stuff: Bonus Tracks

Rock N Roll [UK/Japan Bonus Tracks] Nov, 2003

Funeral Marching
- posted here

So Alive [International Single CD1] Jan, 2004

Ah Life
Don't Even Know Her Name

So Alive [International Single CD2] Jan, 2004

I'm Coming Over

So Alive [International 7" Single] Jan, 2004


This Is It [Single] May 2004

Red Lights
Closer When She Goes
Twice As Bad As Love

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Little Kum-Ba-Yah With Deer Tick...

Caught Deer Tick on St. Patty's Day at an in-store performance at Cactus Music in Houston. The early evening gig took place upon the band's arrival town before their night show at Rudyard's. Nevermind their tour-van-worn appearance, foggy eyes, and slightly late arrival - these guys are good. And their party-first, obligation-later attitude only helps them make what they do look so easy.

John McCauley took the stage alone, beginning with a nimbly-picked 'Ashamed.' One by one, John invited the other band members up to the stage; each song adding one more layer of silky-smooth harmony. The parade of friends culminated with a five-part rendition of 'Dirty Dishes' done with a campfire sing-along feel.

Going solo once again, McCauley showed us a witty song, 'Cake & Eggs' co-written with a member of folk trio Those Darlins and admittedly ripped off from a John Prine Song. He also introduced us to the first taste of Born On Flag Day, his next album, due out sometime later this year.

The showcase was capped off with a somewhat darker version of Hank's 'Never Get Out of this World Alive.' I've always felt a strong presence of ol' Hank in John's stage swagger and country drawl (see 'Spend The Night'), but it was nice to hear him put his own flare on one of the legend's best songs.

More Pictures:

Here are some miscellaneous DT tunes I found in my library:

Deer Tick - Hobo's Lullaby
courtesey's The Old Lonesome Sound Mix
Deer Tick - Still Crazy After All These Years
Paul Simon cover courtesy Aquarium Drunkard
Deer Tick - Hell On Earth

unreleased Deer Tick track

Check out my War Elephant re-release post

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Boo.......... Boohatch

This Mornin'... favorite Mike McClure has been busy recording music lately. Both for himself and for other bands.

Mike has made available a Boohatch Records Sampler. The disc includes songs from some of his recent productions including: Jessey Thompson, Shut Down Town, Fat Dixie, Willie Stradlin', and Little Ray. Also featured on the set are two songs from Mike himself. The new rocker, Deviants, and a re-imagined Great Divide tune, Nowhere Woman. The decision to re-record this epic tune came after a cry of popular demand in the comments of his always entertaining MySpace blog.

Purchase Boohatch: Choppy Thingy at

A few weeks ago, Mike stumbled upon a batch of lost copies of his first self-production: The Great Divide & Friends - Dirt & Sprit. This inspiring gospel collection features five songs from Mike (and/or The Great Divide) as well as a few from some other Oklahoma favorites: Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Boland, The Red Dirt Rangers, Susan Gibson, and Stoney LaRue.

Those copies look to be sold out now, so sorry for the late heads-up. Here's a couple of the uplifting tunes:

The Great Divide - Angels Over Me
Susan Gibson & Mike McClure - Hung Down Head

Stream some more recent recordings on Mike's MySpace page.

A Good Egg.....

Way to go, Ryan.

He's "a good egg. I'm in awe of him: his brain, his passion. He's truly one of a kind."
- Mandy Moore

Bruce Robison - Just Married
from Long Way Home From Anywhere (1999)
Whiskeytown - Matrimony
from Faithless Street (1996)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hello Sunshine, My Old Friend...

Seems as though I can't think for myself lately, or at least can't come up with anything original. So here's another news-worthy snippet courtesy of some other website.

Word from Pitchfork (once again) is that Akashic Books has yet another work from Ryan Adams in its final production stages. Hello Sunshine will be Ryan's second literary work - following Infinity Blues - a collection of short, dark poems.

So just as Ryan can release albums with his hands tied behind his back, it seems he can also type with his feet. The announcement of his second book comes more than a month prior to the official release of his first. The first batch of Infinity Blues was shipped out before Christmas, but the collection will hit bookshelves in April. I'm about halfway through my copy, and I can tell you one thing: poetry is not my bag, baby. The pieces are always interesting, but I just can't seem to follow them. The book initially received great reviews from some power names (Steven King, Cameron Crowe, Eileen Myles), so that just proves I should not review literary works.

The new one is listed as a mix of "poems and short fiction from Ryan Adams."

The publisher goes on to say "with the release of Hello Sunshine, Ryan Adams breaks literary ground far beyond what he accomplished with his critically acclaimed first book. Where his debut was characterized by the bitterness of heartbreak, Hello Sunshine is a graceful, sensual assertion of the other side of the emotional coin. This is a 2009 fever dream--inside Ryan's heart and mind--replete with unforgettable verse that will shock and delight those expecting a mere continuation of where Infinity Blues left off."

Ryan, as ever, claims his newest effort to be his "best work yet."

Read more, including some comments from Ryan himself here.
Check the page again on May 15th for ordering information.

This news has got me wanting to get back into the first one so I can make a better judgment regarding it. I stopped reading it when I ordered a copy of the (so far) only biography written on Ryan - Michael Heatley's aptly titled Ryan Adams (2003). The bio was short and sweet, offering lots of quotes and inside-the-studio intel. But the premature effort stops just short of the good stuff. It abruptly ends after the release of Demolition with the hanger being the question of what is next for Ryan, to which the only answer Heatley has is I don't know. The life of this prolific songsmith will no doubt spawn many better efforts further down the line.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Townes Tribute Album Coming from the Right Place

Another little album release update, here.

Pitchfork has reported in detail that Steve Earle, longtime friend and early protege to Townes Van Zandt, will release a tribute album to the music legend. The album, titled simply Townes, features a slew of impressive cameos including Rage's Tom Morello, Steve's wife Allison Moorer, some un-named 'bluegrass legends,' and most excitingly, his son Justin in a duet of 'Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold.'

Head over to the Pitchfork story to stream 'Lungs' from the album. The song was the only track produced by John King, who turned the dials for Steve's most recent Washington Square Serenade. The track definitely has the same gritty, electric ambiance that WSS evoked and surprisingly adds a new layer to Townes' song. But with a songwriter like Townes, it's tough to screw one up. If there's anyone in this world to do the late, great Townes Van Zandt justice, it's Steve Earle.

The tribute artist once famous for saying "Townes Van Zandt is the greatest songwriter in the whole world, and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that," now has this to say:

"This may be one of the best records I've ever made."

Check out the New West album page to stream track 1 as well.

01 Pancho and Lefty
02 White Freightliner Blues
03 Colorado Girl
04 Where I Lead Me
05 Lungs

06 No Place to Fall
07 Loretta
08 Brand New Companion
09 Rake
10 Delta Momma Blues
11 Marie
12 Don't Take It Too Bad
13 Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold
14 (Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria

15 To Live Is to Fly

Pick up the album on May 12th (New West) on both CD and Vinyl.


For now, I'll give you one of my favorite Townes tracks as well as an extra song from Steve. He wrote the song in '97 as his way of dealing with the loss of the legend and friend.

Townes Van Zandt - Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel
Steve Earle - Ft. Worth Blues

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dylan Set To Release New Album In April

That's right, word is the American legend will follow 2006's bluesy Modern Times with "raw-country love songs, sly wordplay, and the wounded state of the nation" for a so far unnamed new effort. This purportedly twang-filled effort that is set for a late April release includes accordion on nearly every track thanks to Los Lobos' David Hidalgo. Track names include "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'," "If You Ever Go To Houston," "This Dream of You," "My Wife's Home Town," and "It's All Good."

I'll leave you with the same lyric sample that the Rolling Stone article where I first learned the news opened with:

"I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver and I'm reading James Joyce.
Some people tell me I got the blood of the land in my voice"

Bob Dylan - Things Have Changed
from Tell Tale Signs: Bootleg Series Vol. 8 (2009)
Billy Joe Shaver - Thunderbird
from Electric Shaver (1999)