AUK’s Chain Gang: Whiskeytown “16 Days”

Great, this feature has turned into a drinking game. So after Rick Bayles offered us Mary Gauthier’s reflection on drink and its perils, where else do we end up but Whiskeytown? I thought about playing ‘Dancing with the Women at the Bar’, but that sounded far too much like some nights out I’d prefer to forget. However, ‘Strangers Almanac’ also includes ‘16 Days’. I’m hardly the first to compare Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary’s singing to Parsons and Harris, but this song showcases their vocal chemistry very nicely. Phil Wandscher’s stinging guitar solo that occupies most of the last minute of the song sounds as angry as personal relations within the band seem to have been.

Adams claims to have sabotaged the chances of ’16 Days’ becoming a hit by daring a major radio station to take it off the air, they obliged and the single sank without trace. As a band who could prompt headlines like: “Whiskeytown: half band, half soap opera” they were seldom without moments of drama, but produced in this song and others on ’Strangers Almanac’ some of the defining texts of alt.country, and led Rolling Stone, to suggest rather optimistically; “If there’s to be a Nirvana among the bands that are imprecisely dubbed alternative country, look to Whiskeytown”

Since the band dissolved Adams has continued to attract controversy and has largely been the maker of his own career decline. This suggests that the occasional rumours of a reunion are unlikely to come to anything. But the music remains, and is a link in the chain that brought us to where americana music is now. But, is it just me or can anyone else hear bits of ‘Maggie May’ in this song?

About Tim Martin 137 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.

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