Stranger's Almanac (1997)
by Whiskeytown
Outpost Recordings - OPRD-30005 - 29/07/1997

Strangers Almanac is the second studio album by American alternative country band Whiskeytown, released on July 29, 1997 on Geffen and Outpost Records. The album was reissued as a deluxe edition with bonus tracks and an additional disc of previously unreleased material on March 4, 2008.

Throughout 1996, Whiskeytown recorded new material in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina. Two separate recording sessions – dubbed the "Barn's On Fire" sessions and the "Baseball Park" sessions – produced several songs that were later re-recorded for Strangers Almanac. And while praising everyone involved in making Strangers, principal songwriter Ryan Adams once remarked in an interview that he preferred these earlier songs to the final album. Tracks from these sessions would later be released on the reissues of Faithless Street and Strangers Almanac.

The road to making Strangers was a rocky one – in late 1996, bassist Steve Grothman and drummer Skillet Gilmore left the band on the same day, suddenly placing the future of Whiskeytown in doubt. It was then that violinist Caitlin Cary also considered leaving the band, while Adams toyed with the idea of signing as a solo artist with A&M Records. But in the end, the remaining band members soldiered on and, in February 1997, Adams, Cary, and guitarist Phil Wandscher traveled to Woodland Studios in Nashville to record their major label debut. Drummer Steve Terry and bassist Jeff Rice were also added to the lineup. Producer Jim Scott was selected due to his previous work on Tom Petty'sWildflowers album.

The sessions featured plenty of give-and-take between the young, scrappy band and the older, more-polished producer. Said Adams later: "He [Jim Scott] wanted to make something flow. He wanted to make our record work, whereas we wanted our record to get damaged." And for his part, Scott points to a particularly raw-sounding guitar part in the song "Everything I Do" and says, "I listen to that and go, oh my God, we should've redone that guitar because it just is a little rough on such a beautiful song. But that's maybe what they liked about it; they were like, 'No, that's cool'... Maybe that was the bruise on the apple that they were looking for."

The first notes heard on the album – Adams picking out a slow acoustic guitar line at the beginning of "Inn Town" – were played using an Alvarez guitar purchased for $100 at a Nashville pawn shop. Adams had arrived in Nashville without a guitar because of an unfortunate mishap: on the day they were leaving for Nashville, the band met in a parking lot to load their gear into a van for the trip. After loading their gear, everyone hopped in the van and drove off. It was only later that they realized they'd left Adams' guitars behind, still sitting in the parking lot. The title of the album's opening track is a reference to fellow North Carolinian/Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan and his band Wwax, who released a song with the same title.

The song "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight" features Alejandro Escovedo on vocals. The band had previously covered Escovedo's True Believers song "The Rain Won't Help You When It's Over", which is featured on Disc 2 of the album's 2008 reissue.

The understated piano accents on "Avenues" were played by Adams. Producer Scott believes that this was the first time that the young songwriter had ever played piano on a recording.

About the song "Losering", Adams says: "I love 'Losering' because I think it makes a beautiful statement with only about six words. I coulda put more extremely well-written, musically perfect songs on the record but decided not to because I was proud of the fact that there was finally some experimenting going on in the band. And 'Losering' was one of them – 'Losering' was originally just about a six or seven-bar little hymn that I was writing, like Sun Ra or somebody might do – like A Love Supreme, you know, where they just mumble that in succession at the end of that Coltrane record? I kinda wanted to do something like that but maybe with an influence from The Byrds, you know. And I was really proud of that; I really thought that was amazing, so I love listening to it." 

After a month of recording at Woodland Studios, the band finished recording and mixing at Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles.

[from Wikipedia]

Tracklist

1Inn Town (written by Ryan Adams, Phil Wandscher)5:51
2Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight (written by Ryan Adams)3:14
3Yesterday's News (written by Ryan Adams, Phil Wandscher)2:49
416 Days (written by Ryan Adams)3:54
5Everything I Do (written by Ryan Adams, Phil Wandscher)4:31
6Houses On The Hill (written by Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary)2:38
7Turn Around (written by Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary)5:16
8Dancing With The Women At The Bar (written by Ryan Adams)4:38
9Waiting To Derail (written by Ryan Adams)3:54
10Avenues (written by Ryan Adams)2:31
11Losering (written by Ryan Adams)4:00
12Somebody Remembers The Rose (written by Ryan Adams, Phil Wandscher)2:30
13Not Home Anymore (written by Ryan Adams)5:54
27Kiss & Make Up (written by Ryan Adams)3:31

Bonus tracks

14Houses On The Hill (written by Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary)Live In The Studio Radio Performances, September 10 19973:42
15Nurse With The Pills (written by Ryan Adams)Live In The Studio Radio Performances, September 10 19974:40
16I Don't Care What You Think About Me (written by Ryan Adams)Live In The Studio Radio Performances, September 10 19973:18
17Somebody Remembers The Rose (written by Ryan Adams, Phil Wandscher)Live In The Studio Radio Performances, September 10 19972:33
18Turn Around (written by Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary)Live In The Studio Radio Performances, September 10 19974:26
19Indian Gown (written by Ryan Adams, Phil Wandscher)"Barn's on Fire" sessions4:46
2016 Days (written by Ryan Adams)Demo - "Baseball Park" sessions3:13
21Somebody Remembers The Rose (written by Ryan Adams, Phil Wandscher)Demo - "Baseball Park" sessions2:45
22Avenues (written by Ryan Adams)Demo3:34
23Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight (written by Ryan Adams)Demo - "Baseball Park" sessions2:43
24Houses On The Hill (written by Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary)Early version - "Barn's on Fire" sessions2:25
25My Heart Is Broken (written by Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary)"Barn's on Fire" sessions3:04
26I Still Miss Someone (written by Johnny Cash, Roy Cash)Demo2:24
28Barn's On Fire (written by Ryan Adams)"Barn's on Fire" sessions1:43
29Dancing With The Women At The Bar (written by Ryan Adams)Early version - "Barn's on Fire" sessions4:28
30Dreams (written by Stevie Nicks)"Barn's on Fire" sessions5:49
31Breathe (written by Ryan Adams)"Barn's on Fire" sessions4:07
32Wither, I'm A Flower (written by Ryan Adams)from the Hope Floats soundtrack4:53
33Luxury Liner (written by Gram Parsons)"Barn's on Fire" sessions2:40
34Theme For A Trucker (written by Ryan Adams)from The End of Violence soundtrack4:29
35Streets of Sirens (written by Ryan Adams)"Barn's on Fire" sessions3:44
36Turn Around (written by Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary)Early version4:02
3710 Seconds (written by Ryan Adams, Phil Wandscher)"Barn's on Fire" sessions4:15
38Ticket Time (written by Ryan Adams)"Barn's on Fire" sessions3:54
39The Rain Won't Help You When It's Over (written by Alejandro Escovedo)"Barn's on Fire" sessions4:34

Listen

Performance statistics

TitleTimes playedDebutLast played
Inn Town401997-03-281999-12-31
Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight721995-05-252005-06-08
Yesterday's News751996-08-182014-10-14
16 Days1601996-05-092017-01-26
Everything I Do551997-07-191999-12-31
Houses On The Hill711997-08-122015-05-29
Turn Around401997-07-191999-12-31
Dancing With The Women At The Bar811997-03-152012-02-18
Waiting To Derail231997-08-212000-03-17
Avenues661997-03-262014-11-15
Losering181997-08-221999-12-31
Somebody Remembers The Rose421997-03-152011-12-02
Not Home Anymore401997-01-181999-12-31
Houses On The Hill (bonus track)711997-08-122015-05-29
Nurse With The Pills (bonus track)121997-08-211998-05-15
I Don't Care What You Think About Me (bonus track)Never played live
Somebody Remembers The Rose (bonus track)421997-03-152011-12-02
Turn Around (bonus track)401997-07-191999-12-31
Indian Gown (bonus track)Never played live
16 Days (bonus track)1601996-05-092017-01-26
Somebody Remembers The Rose (bonus track)421997-03-152011-12-02
Avenues (bonus track)661997-03-262014-11-15
Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight (bonus track)721995-05-252005-06-08
Houses On The Hill (bonus track)711997-08-122015-05-29
My Heart Is Broken (bonus track)211997-01-182008-12-04
I Still Miss Someone (bonus track)381998-02-112006-04-27
Kiss & Make Up41997-03-281997-04-05
Barn's On Fire (bonus track)Never played live
Dancing With The Women At The Bar (bonus track)811997-03-152012-02-18
Dreams (bonus track)101997-03-242000-09-17
Breathe (bonus track)451997-01-182000-09-17
Wither, I'm A Flower (bonus track)61997-01-181997-10-21
Luxury Liner (bonus track)Never played live
Theme For A Trucker (bonus track)51997-08-022000-11-09
Streets of Sirens (bonus track)Never played live
Turn Around (bonus track)401997-07-191999-12-31
10 Seconds (bonus track)Never played live
Ticket Time (bonus track)41997-01-181997-03-26
The Rain Won't Help You When It's Over (bonus track)71997-03-241997-09-17

Notes

Musicians

Ryan Adams – acoustic & electric guitars, vocals, banjo, piano, percussion
Phil Wandscher – electric guitar, vocals, organ, percussion
Caitlin Cary – violin, vocals
Steven Terry – drums, vocals, percussion
Jeff Rice – bass guitar

Additional musicians

Alejandro Escovedo – singing
John Ginty – piano, wurlitzer electric piano, hammond b3 organ, church keys
Greg Leisz – pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin
Curt Bisquera – percussion
Bill Ladd – pedal steel guitar
Rick Latina – pedal steel guitar
Dan Navarro – trumpet
Crecencio Gonzalez – trombone
Jim Goodwin – alto sax
Jim Scott – percussion

Production credits

Produced, engineered and mixed by Jim Scott
Recorded at Woodland studios, Nashville and Ocean Way studios, Hollywood
Mixed at Ocean Way studios, Hollywood
Mastered by Stephen Marcussen at Precision Mastering, Los Angeles.