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Friday, February 1, 2013

Jacksonville City Nights

(Lost Highway Records)
Released 9/27/05

"I wanted to make the kind of unironic country record you hear in a bar where people get knifed, where you may or may not get your ass kicked by some guy with a big belt buckle and a pool cue: a knife-fight country record......  There’s a lot of stuff about where I’m from and my family. I was digging up a lot of stuff." - Ryan Adams (Time Out London - Interview by Graeme Thomson)

The Reviews

"the troubadour's countriest effort since 1996's Faithless Street, only countrier-- lovesick sepia with pedal steel, string touches, and cry-in-your-unironic-Pabst honky-tonk piano...... Adams vocals here conjure an unfaltering, fatherly pastiche of great country voices, from muddy Merle Haggard vibrato interspersed throughout to the Hank Williams yodel of "Peaceful Valley" or one-time Whiskeytown rarity "My Heart Is Broken"...... Jacksonville City Nights is a well-lit snapshot of a talented mythmaker modeling his best honky-tonk garb-- and this time, holy shtick, the tailoring is almost impeccable." (Pitchfork Media. 7.7 rating - Marc Hogan 9/28/05)

"Jacksonville City Nights, an unadulterated return to form. He explores with unwavering dedication the shuffle, sway and gallop of traditional country music, as channeled through the filter of Seventies country rock. Taking cues from Southern bards such as Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt, Jacksonville City Nights is also classic Adams -- earthy, rich with pathos and almost disconcertingly dedicated to the idea that life's only two constants are losing a lover you probably didn't deserve in the first place and losing yourself in the bottom of a fifth of Jack Daniel's." (Rolling Stone - Jenny Eliscu - 3and1/2 stars - 10/6/05)

"Jacksonville City Nights is his most "country" album to date, but smartly stays away from the country stereotypes and twang. The Dead ventured towards the country feel quite a few times, most overtly in Workingman's Dead which has bluegrass overtones in many of its songs. This goes to show that country music doesn't have to suck. It's just the people making country music in today's music industry seem to forget that.
I listened to the new album for the first time on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Instantly, it was clear what this album was: one of the best mellow albums of all time. "
A+ (Popcultre)

"....this 46-minute gem sparkles and resonates with the cosmic country-rock of the Flying Burrito Brothers. What results is not only one of Adams' rootsiest and strongest albums in years, but also one of his most consistent and unforgettable. After Cold Roses, we wondered whether anybody needed three albums in one year from Adams.
Now we're beginning to think that three might not be enough. (4 1/2 out of 5 stars- Winnipeg Sun - Darryl Sterdan)

1. A Kiss Before I Go
2. The End (Ryan Adams/ Michael Panes)
3. Hard Way to Fall
4. Dear John (Ryan Adams/ Norah Jones)
5. The Hardest Part
6. Games
7. Silver Bullets
8. Peaceful Valley
9. September
10. My Heart is Broken (Ryan Adams/ Caitlin Cary)
11. Trains (Ryan Adams/ Michael Panes)
12. Pa
13. Withering Heights
14. Don't Fail Me Now

Ryan Adams - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
JP Bowerstock - Guitar
Catherine Popper - Bass, Keyboards, Background Vocals
Jon Graboff - Pedal Steel
Brad Pemberton - Drums
Claudia Chopek - Violin
David Gold - Violin and Viola
Bob Hoffman - Pedal Steel
Byron Isaacs - Background Vocals
Norah Jones - Piano, Vocals
Julia Kent - Cello
Joe McGinty - Piano
Michael Panes - Violin
Johnny T - Drums
Glenn Patscha - Piano, Background Vocals

All Lyrics written by Ryan Adams except where noted
All Music written by Ryan Adams/ JP Bowerstock/ Catherine Popper/ Jon Graboff/ Brad Pemberton except where noted
Produced by Tom Schick
Co-produced by Tom Schick and Tom Gloady
Recorded by Tom Schick and Tom Gloady
Mixed by Tom Schick and Ryan Adams
Recorded and Mixed at Loho Studios (NYC)
Additional Recording at Emerald Studios (Nashville, TN)
Assisted by Adam Dye
Additional Mixing at Sear Sound (NYC)
Assisted by Chris Allen
Mastered by Fred Kevorkian at Kevorkian Mastering Inc. (NYC)

The Background

After the sessions for Cold Roses were wrapped up in early 2005, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals found out that they still had studio time booked for another week. As a result, the band wasted no time and went to town writing and recording songs for a vintage country album.
Jacksonville City Nights was the result and the 2nd of 3 Ryan Adams albums put out in 2005. Recorded in one week and in a similar fashion to Cold Roses, the band laid down as many as 7 songs per day. Oftentimes only playing a couple quick run-throughs before recording the first and only take of a song. The album also marks the first Cardinals album with pedal steel guru - Jon Graboff. 

"I remember walking into the studio control room when I got to the first session and seeing the guys aligning an eight-track headblock on the two-inch tape machine – that got my attention. Then I walked into the live room and saw that the studio was being setup in a way that indicated that everyone would be playing and recording at the same time, in a circle. No starting with a drum track and building up the tracks one by one as a lot of records are made these days! Then we started on the first tune. If I remember correctly, it was the song, “The End”, and, with the things I’ve already mentioned, I said to myself that this is the record I’ve been waiting to make all my life." - Jon Graboff (Stereokill Interview)

The songs on JCN don't veer too far away from Whiskeytown's recordings, but here the Cardinals take country one step further. Jon Graboff's pedal steel playing on this album brings new life to this album cannot be underestimated. There were also some stunning string arrangements recorded for every song on the album (although not all were used). As with most Ryan Adams albums, there was plenty of material left over and not put on the album. Some of which were released as bonus tracks (see below for more info). 

My Review

Jacksonville City Nights remains a favorite album among many fans. It's the perfect soundtrack to hanging out at some West Texas bar, shooting pool, and drinking down shots and beer. There's plenty of songs about death, drinking, and heartbreak; and these tunes wouldn't sound out of place on 1950's country radio. Throughout the record, there's a heavy influences of early singles by Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson, but Ryan and the Cardinals are still able to leave their own mark, and record some classics.

Five months before this album came out, I caught a few of the Cardinals shows and a bunch of songs from Jacksonville City Nights were previewed. These live versions were more electric, rockin', and jammier. So upon hearing the album for the first time, I remember being slightly let down. However, over time, this record grew on me a ton! Named after his hometown, it includes some of Ryan's most autobiographical songs (most notably "The End"). Also despite the fast pace of recording, it's incredible how nice and full these songs sound with full string sections, pedal steel, and stand-up bass. At times, the guitars sound out of tune and vocals go off key, but these rough edges only add to the album's charm.  

Definitely Essential!

Key Tracks: "A Kiss Before I Go", "The End","September", "Dear John", "Hard Way to Fall". "The Hardest Part","Peaceful Valley","My Heart is Broken","Trains","Withering Heights", and bonus tracks - "What Sin Replaces Love" and "Jeane".

Other Versions/ Bonus Cuts worth Checking Out

In 2005, early promos of the album featured an unreleased acoustic demo version of "What Sin Replaces Love".

In 2005, a free 20 minute-documentary called "September" was given away free with the purchase of Jacksonville City Nights in some indie retail stores.

In 2005, import versions of Jacksonville City Nights featured the following bonus tracks - "Always on My Mind", "What Sin Replaces Love" (electric demo), and/or "Jeane"

In 2005, the vinyl edition of the album featured bonus tracks - "Always on My Mind", "Jeane", "I Still Miss Someone", and "A Kiss Before I Go" (demo version).

In 2005, an alternate version of "September" was released as an exclusive track through Rhapsody.com

In 2012, various solo versions of songs from the album were released on Live After Deaf.

(original album cover for Jacksonville City Nights)

Random Notes:

The following songs were also supposedly recorded for Jacksonville City Nights:

We're Doomed
Where Dreams Go to Die
Liars Eve
The Howling
Dust and Alcohol
Rosewood Cemetary
When the Wild Wind Calls - later re-recorded for the unreleased album - Darkbreaker.
Like the Lies She Tells to Me
Already Going and Gone
Give Up?
On My Way to Jacksonville

(List was taken from a tentative track listing that Ryan had written up.)

Other Random Info:

According to Nielson soundscan in June of 2007, the album sold 100,000 copies in the US and  158,000 worldwide.

Most of the Jacksonville City Nights sessions were filmed by Danny Clinch for an upcoming documentary. (As of 2013, the documentary has not been released.)

A month after the release of the album, the band made an appearance on Austin City Limits and played several songs from Jacksonville City Nights.
The original title for Jacksonville City Nights was September.

Song Info:

"Hard Way to Fall" and "Jeane"  were originally recorded for Love is Hell.

"Don't Fail Me Now" was originally titled "When the Rope Gets Tied" and was played live by Ryan multiple times from 2000 onward.

"What Sin Replaces Love" is another old song that Ryan began playing live at solo shows circa 1999/2000.

"Silver Bullets" is an older song that Ryan played live in 2001.

"My Heart is Broken" was written when Ryan Adams was in Whiskeytown and remained officially unreleased until Jacksonville City Nights. Later it was released as a bonus track on the Strangers Almanac deluxe edition in 2008.

"Pa" was originally recorded for Heartbreaker.


"The Hardest Part","Peaceful Valley", and "What Sin Replaces Love" have all been covered by Phil Lesh and Friends.

Sweet Videos

"Hard Way to Fall" from Austin City Limits

Norah Jones and Ryan discuss the writing and recording of "Dear John":