Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown 

[University of Texas Press]

Ryan Adams is one of the more complex characters in music. He’s a gifted and restless songwriter at home in a variety of styles, from wrenching country ballads to bombastic heavy metal. Cocky one minute, startlingly insecure the next, he’s a fascinating, polarizing figure who has at times become a rock ’n’ roll caricature. Music critic David Menconi strives to render Adams in three dimensions, digging into the singer’s origins on the Raleigh, N.C., scene that Menconi has spent the past two decades covering  for the News & Observer.

Menconi was a firsthand witness to the rise and fall of Whiskeytown, the band that launched Adams’ career and has loomed as a constant—and not entirely fair—benchmark ever since. Drawing on his own conversations with Adams (before the singer cut ties following a lukewarm review of Adams’ 2001 solo breakthrough, Gold) and interviews with the people who knew and played with him, Menconi examines Adams’ ambitions, abilities and self-sabotaging side as Whiskeytown grew from scrappy alt-country upstarts to a group on the verge of mainstream success, before it all fell apart. Although the author’s fondness for his subject—or at least the music—is unmistakable, he sorts attentively through the contradictions and self-inventions, exploring Adams’ development  with balance, nuance and a dash of wry wit. Whether you come away from Losering with a different  opinion of Adams probably depends on where you start, but Menconi offers a deeper understanding of how he evolved into the artist he’s become. –Eric R. Danton

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