Field Reportings from Issue #12
WHITHER WHISKEYTOWN? Raleigh, N.C., band Whiskeytown has undergone yet another lineup change in the aftermath of a fight at a show in Kansas City in late September. Guitarist Phil Wandscher, drummer Steve Terry and bassist Chris Laney are no longer in the band; “We were put on the RV and sent back home” after the Kansas City show, says Wandscher. Leader Ryan Adams and fiddler Caitlin Cary played the final three dates of the tour as a duo (the Nashville show is reviewed on page 25). Multi-instrumentalist Mike Daly, who had been touring with the band since the release of Strangers Almanac this summer, rejoined the group when the tour resumed on the East Coast in mid-October, along with new members Ed “Fromohio” Crawford (formerly of Firehose) on guitar, Jennifer Snyder on bass and original drummer Skillet Gilmore. Adams and Wandscher — the only members whose names are actually on Whiskeytown’s record contract with Geffen — had stuck together through a near-breakup of the band in the fall of ’96, but Adams says their relationship had recently deteriorated to the point where “fistfights started happening….
There isn’t like any really great story behind what happened; it was just that there was gonna come a day when I didn’t wanna deal with Phil anymore. And that day came….
People just have problems being in bands, and one of them is it’s just really hard for us to get along; it always has been. I suppose it’s everybody’s fault.”
SCATTERINGS: Warner Bros. affiliate Sire and Austin independent label Watermelon finally sealed a long-rumored agreement in September. The first joint release by the two labels is the Derailers’ Reverb Deluxe, which was originally due out in July on Watermelon but now will be released by Watermelon/Sire on November 18….
Also due out on November 18, this one on MCA Nashville, is the soundtrack to a new movie titled The Horse Whisperer. The record features the first new recording by the Flatlanders — the legendary early ’70s West Texas group that featured Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock — in more than two decades. Other artists featured on the album include Iris DeMent, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Don Walser, Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams….
Setting up shop for a series of Sunday nights at the Saxon Pub in Austin recently was the Resentments, a rather intriguing supergroup of sorts: mainstream country singer Hal Ketchum, noted guitarist and producer Stephen Bruton, former True Believers axman Jon Dee Graham, and onetime Mavericks member David Holt. The kicker being that Ketchum was playing drums….
Folk-bluegrass guitarist and singer Doc Watson was one of eleven recipients of the prestigious National Medal of Arts for 1997, presented by president Clinton at the White House on September 29….
Last June’s Twangfest, a weekend gathering of alternative-country artists and fans (whoever they are) who subscribe to the “Postcard 2” internet mailing list, was enough of a success that Twangfest II is being planned for 1998. The event will be held June 5-6, 1998, once again at Off Broadway nightclub in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information, e-mail Kip Loui at: louicm@SLU.EDU
ALL THE FIXINS: A review of Blue Mountain’s Homegrown in ND #10 (July-Aug. ’97) erroneously stated that the album was recorded at a studio run by engineer Jeffrey Reed. Though Reed did co-produce and engineer the album, the studio (Route 1 Recording in Monticello, Miss.) is owned by Chris Hudson, cousin of Blue Mountain leader Cary Hudson and part-owner of Black Dog Records….
We flunked our North Carolina geography quiz in ND #11 (Sept.-Oct. ’97). A feature on Robbie Fulks listed his hometown as Creedmore, which is properly spelled Creedmoor. And an article on the Rand Ol’ Opry in the town of Liberty made mention of the state zoo in Asheville; the North Carolina state zoo is actually in Asheboro….
And, in the “correcting our corrections” department, last issue’s correction on a James McMurtry story in the previous issue which incorrectly credited a Rolling Stones song to John Mellencamp also slightly misspelled the name of said song, which is titled “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” rather than “Can You Hear Me Knocking”.
In The Pines
Sept. 18-20, 1997
Billed as an “Americana Adventure,” In The Pines — sponsored by the music trade magazine Gavin — was held Sept. 18-20 at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness, New Hampshire. It brought together radio programmers who report to their Americana chart as well as members of the alternative country community from record companies, other media, artists and “friends of the format.”
While most music business conventions are held in hotels in major cities, this one happened basically in the middle of nowhere — specifically, on a campground on Squam Lake (where the movie On Golden Pond was filmed). It was a relatively small gathering as these things go (around 200 attendees), which created the feeling that everyone present held their own special importance while allowing folks to spend a little quality time with artists such as Doug Sahm, Emmylou Harris, Tim O’Brien and Robbie Fulks.
A few daytime panels focused on the radio side of things, which allowed for some exchange of ideas on the state of Americana radio, where it is now and where it’s going, with an obvious dividing line apparent between commercial and non-commercial radio.
But the music was the most significant portion of the weekend, with up to six performances per day at either the camp’s funky old playhouse or its rustic dining hall. (The food was fabulous, by the way, and extremely plentiful.) The opening night saw mostly acoustic performances by Kelly Joe Phelps, Wayne Hancock, Fred Eaglesmith and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Daytime gigs featured Fulks, Laurie Lewis, Buddy & Julie Miller with Emmylou sitting in, and Jamie Hartford, with guest appearances by Joy Lynn White and Tim Carroll. Evening performers included O’Brien, Chris Knight, the Blazers, Dale Watson, Seconds Flat and Darrell Scott. All told, it was quite a diverse group of artists, indicating the stylistic breadth of the Americana community.
Jimmie Rodgers’ America
Sept. 20-21, 1997
On the same weekend as Gavin‘s In The Pines retreat, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland presented “Waiting For A Train: Jimmie Rodgers’ America”, a series of seminars at Case Western University and musical performances at the Odeon nightclub and Severance Hall (home of the Cleveland Symphony). In fact, a couple of jet-setting artists — Ricky Skaggs and Jimmie Dale Gilmore — managed to put in appearances at both the New Hampshire gathering and the Cleveland event during the course of the weekend.
The Rodgers celebration, co-produced by the Nashville-based Country Music Hall of Fame, was the second annual installment of the Rock Hall’s American Masters Series, which began last year with a week-long program of events focused on pioneering folk singer Woody Guthrie. Intended at the time as a one-off event, the Guthrie gathering proved so successful that the Rock Hall decided to make it an annual series, honoring a different historically influential figure in American music each year.
Scholars of Rodgers’ work, and of country music in general, discussed the musician’s significance in a daytime seminar on Saturday. Bill Malone, author of the book Country Music USA, suggested the key to Rodgers’ success was that he was “simultaneously conservative and adaptive” — conservative enough to cling to the rural roots that were at country music’s core, yet adaptive enough to accept that urban America had the technology to turn the music into a mass medium.
The Saturday night concert at the Odeon featured Jason & the Scorchers, Southside Johnny, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, the Delevantes, David Ball, Steve Forbert and Alejandro Escovedo. Sunday’s concluding show at Severance Hall featured Skaggs, Gilmore, John Prine, Levon Helm, Iris DeMent, Junior Brown, Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Welch & Rawlings.
Gilmore, who opened the second half of Sunday’s show with three solo acoustic numbers, seemed most clearly to embody Rodgers’ musical spirit. Opening his set with two Rodgers tunes, “Jimmie the Kid” and “California Blues”, Gilmore then demonstrated the direct connection between Rodgers and Hank Williams with his rendition of Williams’ “Long Gone Lonesome Blues.” In introducing the Williams song, Gilmore suggested that Rodgers “may have affected American popular music more than anyone else.” He hesitated for a moment, pondering the weight of that statement in light of all the others who would warrant consideration for such a distinction. “Maybe not,” he paused…”but I think he did.”