The current issue of Harp magazine has a great cover story on Ryan Adams. I’ll bottom line it: he hurt his hand over a year ago, got scared he’d never play again, had to re-learn to play, and the whole experience was life-altering. Now he wants to be part of a band-— not the leader and boss, but part of a democratic process—- and he wants to revisit, re-interpret his old songs as opposed to playing them rote, replicating the recorded versions. Both great things. In fact, put them together and Ryan Adams seems to have become… wait for it… a jam band.
The Cardinals are an extremely talented group—- he has said he feels overmatched musically by them—- and they have another two records already in the can for release this year. The next one is supposed to be country, the one after that more a typical Ryan Adams singer/songwriter record.
So has Ryan gone jam? Abso-freaking-lutely. The first indication, of course, was his appearance at the annual Jammy Awards in the spring. Then there’s the fact that he’d added the Dead’s “Wharf Rat” to his set—- he nailed it when I saw him last fall—- and has been playing “Wharf Rat” segueing into another Dead tune, “Birdsong.” And on June 16, Phil Lesh performed the two tunes with him in Austin.
Also, he has a beard now.
The highlight of the Ryan Adams jam band summer, though, has to be the two shows he played as a member of Lesh’s rotating Phil Lesh & Friends line-up in Colorado—- one night at the Fillmore in Denver, the next night at Red Rocks. (Adams and Lesh also played an impromptu duo gig at a club, apparently undocumented on tape or hard drive.)
To my ears—and I’ve only heard the audience tapes, but I’m hoping Phil releases these as part of his free soundboard series—- these are the most energizing, energized shows by Lesh since the final gig (thus far) of his classic quintet (Lesh, Haynes, Herring, Barraco, Molo) in 2003. Adams brought a slew of his own songs to the set, I think all from Cold Roses, which faithful APW readers will know is an homage to the best Dead studio work, American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead. So of course the songs fit perfectly, especially “Beautiful Sorta,” “Magnolia Mountain,” and the irresistible “Let It Ride.” Adams also handled vocals on several Garcia tunes (including the two above-mentioned ones) and played an exuberant rhythm guitar. For my money, if you were assembling the best possible version of the Grateful Dead right now, I’d cast Adams for the Bob Weir role.
ITEM: Raspberries Rock the House
You remember them from junior high—- they sang “Go All the Way.” (Unless of course you remember Frankie Goes to Hollywood from junior high. In which case you’re probably too young to get half my jokes.) The archetypal power popsters, who along with Big Star, Badfinger, and Todd Rundgren essentially invented the genre by playing songs in the style of the Beatles, Who, Hollies, Kinks, Beach Boys etc. in the early 70s when such music had become anachronistic and passé (you do, I assume, remember the one about Jeremiah was a bullfrog… it was all the rage.)
Anyway, they have re-formed—- all four original members, with 4 auxiliary members to round out the sound, and I saw them Sunday night at BB King’s (a NYC clip joint, no offense BB, with good acts. Note that they don't show the prices.) They played all the hits and then some, nailed the Who’s “Can’t Explain,” and just to prove they really could still cut it, did a first encore as a foursome which featured “Please Mister Postman,” “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” and “Twist and Shout” (Second encore they tossed in “Roll Over Beethoven.”)
I got grief for writing that they looked old, but they did to me, because they opened the show with a Beatlemania-style video that showed four thin-armed, shaggy-haired teenagers having a Hard Day’s Night kind of ride in the early seventies. Then these guys in their 50s came out. So sue me, it was jarring. But hell, they totally popped, they kicked harmonic butt. It was a privilege to have been there. If they come through your town, even if you don’t know ‘em, go.
ITEM: Power Pop Seems to Be Back
Well, not really. No, I’m not going to write about a bunch of new British bands mining the endlessly vacuous synth-pop fluff of the 80s (if I hear one more kid in his 20s talk about how he was really into classic Duran Duran, I think I’ll rip out my own heart). Not even going to talk about bands with only two members (yeah, Jack White is great. Hire a freaking bass player.)
No, I’m a crusty old curmudgeon about this stuff. But this September, I have tickets to see a reunited dB’s at Maxwell’s in Hoboken (how cool is that?) featuring the original line-up: Holsapple, Stamey, Rigby and Holder. Go here and download their free new song. Then later that month, the new Big Star (I kid you not) record is out, featuring Chilton and Jody Stephens, plus Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. I'm not hoping for another Radio City or Number One Record-- not even another Dear 23-- but I think it will be good.
(APW readers know I’ve performed with Jill Sobule, and Jill performed with Stringfellow, and Stringfellow is now in Big Star with Chilton, and Chilton played with Stamey in the late 70s. So you see, we’re all connected.) (I can actually get there a second way, having gone to camp with Lane Steinberg, who is in Tan Sleeve now but in the 80s his band the Wind worked with Mitch Easter, who was in the Sneakers with Stamey…)
Oh. My. God. I just realized-- Ryan Adams was in Whiskeytown, and there is an unreleased Whiskeytown album (Forever Valentine) produced by Chris Stamey. Whoa...
...and I have a platinum record for writing the liner notes for the Allman Brothers 2003 live DVD. And Warren Haynes is in that band. And he was in the classic Phil Lesh Quintet. And Lesh is running with Adams... Double whoa...
Labels: The tunes
ITEM: Karl Rove behind the Valerie Plame leak
I don’t think Rove has a problem here, despite all the gleeful gloating of the Democrats and the left. He isn’t going to jail. But Bush does have a problem. He said that anyone in his administration involved in the leak would be fired. And I know he said that, because I’ve seen it a good 15 times on CNN. Now we know—because he cops to it—that Rove was involved. The pundits on the left are busy making the case that he broke the law and should go to jail. Mistake. He isn’t going to jail, and really, who cares if he does beyond some sense of cosmic tit for tat befalling the king of sleaze ball politics? No, what needs to happen is he gets fired. What the Bushanistas aren’t appreciating is that their core base is comprised of patriots who are zealous about national security. Joe Republican doesn’t care—or even in fact really know—that Rove is the Bush mastermind. No, what they see is that a bureaucrat in the White House ratted out a front line agent, and that is bad. If Bush doesn’t fire the guy, and soon, he is going to lose the hearts and minds of rank and file Republicans who don’t follow Beltway Buzz, but who support our boys (and gals) in the armed forces, and a CIA NOC counts as one of our gals. In Mission: Impossible, Tom Cruise was the good guy.
ITEM: Bush nominates John Roberts
Best line: on the Daily Show the next day, correspondent Ed Helm reported that Bush nominated Roberts yesterday and “The democrats are outraged over the selection… as they have been for weeks!”
Me, I’ve never heard of the guy, but he seems like a good and reasonable choice. Meaning, of course, we get the lunatic when Rehnquist kicks.
ITEM: Terrorists bomb London; US Overreacts
I can't help but note the extent to which the media feeds off of a terrorist attack as if it were nourishment, and how the media subsequently fans the fire of terror that the terrorists desire to inflict. I had CNN on the day after the London bombings-- admittedly only one outlet-- and they had already implemented a feature called "Security Alert" which didn't exist 2 days prior-- sort of like a regular sports report, only instead of sports, its security. Kind of, "Terror on the 1s." Seems someone left a satchel unattended at Washington's Union Station. More at 21 after... And apparently the theme to be taken from the London attack is, maybe we aren't as safe as we all thought. I think that is the bunk. It has not become any easier for a determined perpetrator to, say, build a pipe bomb, get on the subway at Grand Central Station, and set it off. We knew a month ago that this was possible, that the threat of such attacks existed, and that probably we'd be seeing some of them. Indeed if anything I have to wonder that we haven't seen way MORE of the London-type attacks, either here or in Europe. So some terrorists pull off a relatively small operation (about one death for every 70 9/11 deaths) in London. Sure, it’s a bad thing. But does it change the world we live in? I say no; decidedly not. (Wolf Blitzer on CNN, real quote: "Are YOU safe on the subway? Log on now and vote.") I do not believe the mathematical probability of danger on a subway or bus ride has changed for me. There was already a risk; I knew that. There is still a risk. I think it is the same. I made my decision, and it stays made (although at my wife's request I took a taxi home the day of the bombings instead of the Lex; a $15 sop to the missus I didn't mind making.)... Day of the bombings, I was having lunch with my friend Henry at an Irish pub by Grand Central, and we were eating at the bar, and Giuliani comes on the TV. Fucking Giuliani. The unofficial US Secretary of When Bad Shit Happens. Of course Henry (rightfully) pointed out that terrorism was good business for Giuliani’s security consultancy, and he was probably going to make out good as a result of 7/7...
Labels: The politics