Whiskeytown: David Ryan Adams (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, banjo, piano, percussion); Phil Wandscher (vocals, electric guitar, organ, percussion); Caitlin Cary (vocals, violin); Jeff Rice (bass); Steven Terry (vocals, drums, percussion).
Additional personnel: Alejandro Escovedo (vocals); Rick Latina (pedal steel guitar); Greg Leisz (pedal & lap steel guitars, mandolin); John Ginty (piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hammond B-3 organ, church keys); Kurt Bisquera, Jim Scott (percussion).
The Pocket Horns: Dan Navarro (trumpet); Crecencio Gonzalez (trombone).
Recorded at Woodland Studios, Nashville, Tennessee and Ocean Way Studios, Hollywood, California.
Issued 11 years after STRANGERS ALMANAC's 1997 release, this two-disc deluxe edition features a bevy of Whiskeytown bonus tracks. In addition to live performances and studio sessions, the expanded ALMANAC presents the haunting "Wither, I'm a Flower" from HOPE FLOATS and the spare, twangy "Theme for a Trucker" from END OF VIOLENCE, both of which showcase singer-songwriter Ryan Adams's moody sensibilities.
STRANGERS ALMANAC was Whiskeytown's penultimate album. The band is still steeped in the sounds of country and Gram Parsons-inspired country-rock here, but one can hear the music moving toward the pop of their final effort PNEUMONIA. Everything still centers around the voice and excellent songwriting of Ryan Adams (who was still only 22 at the time of this album's release).
The song "16 Days," for example, with its breezy, open-road, country vibe and the lovely interlocking harmonies between Adams and violinist Caitlin Cary, was released as a single, and rightfully so. There is also the beautiful, melancholic weeper "Dancing With the Women at the Bar," and a revisitiation of "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight," which appeared on the band's debut. Adams's talent shines so brightly here, in fact, that it is little wonder he would soon be pursuing a solo career (the internal tensions in the band would hasten its dissolution as well), but STRANGERS ALMANAC captures this fine, short-lived, alt-country band in full effect.
Rolling Stone (p.60) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he record is remarkably polished, coloring Gram Parsons-style country with R.E.M.'s vocal drama and the Replacements' beer-breath blues."
Rolling Stone (8/7/97, p.64) - 3 Stars (out of 5) - "If there's to be a Nirvana among the bands that are imprecisely dubbed alternative country, look to Whiskeytown. Ryan Adams is a gifted writer who pens aching songs about alienation and love's lackings, and sings in a weary voice scuffed by hard luck..."
Spin (08/01/97, p.74) - "...This Raleigh, N.C., quintet breaks away from the No Depression pack with a potent major-label bow that might be characterized as country & Westerberg. More tuneful and ruminative than their rowdy shows would suggest, Ryan Adams' America-soaked songs alternately rock and tiptoe through the space between apathy and regret..." - Rating: B+
Uncut (p.109) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "[The album] still sounds like alt.country's high tide."
Uncut (5/04, p.100) - "[S]tunning....[R]ocking like a primate and sad-balladeering like the loneliest barfly."
Alternative Press (3/01, p.104) - Included in A.P.'s "10 Essential Alt-Country Albums" - "...Ryan Adams always seems to be singing at the end of a hard night of drinking, or at the end of a string of hard luck..."
Option (11-12/97, p.125) - "...show[s] range beyond the band's trademark roughhouse, twang-tinged punk, but its honky-tonk heart still beats..."
Melody Maker (1/24/98, p.37) - "Purchase immediately and file next to EVERYBODY HURTS and Big Star's THIRTEEN. It really is that good."
Village Voice (2/24/98) - Ranked #23 in the Village Voice's 1997 Jazz & Pop Critics' Poll.
Paste (magazine) (p.64) - "STRANGERS ALMANAC is the beating heart of Whiskeytown's catalog and one of the best albums of its genre and era."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.100) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "Flitting between dustbowl desperation and inner city ennui on slacker anthems such as 'Losering,' Adams soundtracked a subculture with quiet reserve and filmic imagery..."