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Pneumonia
     

Pneumonia

by Whiskeytown
 
In 1998, Whiskeytown was on a roll. Fueled by acclaim for their second album, Stranger's Almanac -- which earned the band and frontman Ryan Adams comparisons to Gram Parsons, the Replacements, Wilco, and

Overview

In 1998, Whiskeytown was on a roll. Fueled by acclaim for their second album, Stranger's Almanac -- which earned the band and frontman Ryan Adams comparisons to Gram Parsons, the Replacements, Wilco, and Bob Dylan, among others -- the North Carolina alt-country group assembled to record their follow-up in an abandoned church in Woodstock, New York. They couldn't have known it then, but the richly textured recordings they made would be held up in record company limbo for three years and would be the band's parting shot. Finally rescued from the vaults, Pneumonia is more meditative than its predecessors. Gone (for the most part) are Adams's Paul Westerberg-like guitar romps and the band's punk-with-a-fiddle approach. What remains is their increasingly classic-sounding twang-'n'-roll songs and earnest approach, as Adams revisits his North Carolina roots on "Jacksonville Skyline" and "My Hometown" and bares his love-stricken soul. On tunes such as the jangly, R.E.M.-ish "Don't Wanna Know Why" and the airy "Don't Be Sad," fiddle player Caitlin Cary proves an elemental force on harmony vocals, elevating the songs' melodies. Things really gel on the flush-in-love tune "Crazy About You" and "Sit and Listen to the Rain," another peek at small-town ennui that's fueled by a rare flourish of electric guitar and a chorus where Adams and Cary muse, "I'll never understand this emptiness." Elsewhere, Whiskeytown branch out on "Paper Moon," which nods to Patsy Cline with its swooning strings and Adams's eyelash-batting coos, and "Mirror, Mirror," a bouncy, horns-and-piano-pumped number with a touch of Broadway flash. But if Pneumonia says anything about this short-lived band, it's that the talent pool ran wide and deep and surely promised more jewels than fate would deliver. With that in mind, keep an ear out for the solo careers of both Adams (already off to a fortuitous start with the release of 2000's Heartbreaker) and Cary.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
Whiskeytown had ceased to be a band in the truest sense by the time they recorded their third (and final) full-length album, Pneumonia; the group began to collapse during the touring following Strangers' Almanac, with members coming and going at a remarkable pace, and for the Pneumonia sessions, the only musicians on hand who had appeared on Faithless Street three years earlier were lead vocalist and songwriter Ryan Adams and violinist and backing vocalist Caitlin Cary. Multi-instrumentalist Mike Daly and percussionist/producer Ethan Johns dominated the sessions' sprawling cast of players, with James Iha and Tommy Stinson popping up on some tracks. Ultimately, Pneumonia sounds more like a Ryan Adams solo project than anything else, and it walks a decidedly different path than the Whiskeytown albums that preceded it -- there are no charging rockers in the manner of "Drank Like a River" or "Yesterday's News," and the country twang of "Too Drunk to Dream" or "Someone Remembers the Rose" has receded into the background (though Cary's violin and occasional mandolin or steel guitar lines from Daly do add a high-lonesome undertow to several songs, especially the plaintive "Sit and Listen to the Rain" and "My Hometown"). This is easily Whiskeytown's most ambitious and eclectic work, and the sparkling pop of "Don't Be Sad" and "Mirror Mirror," the lovely faux-tropicalia of "Paper Moon," the haunting tape-loop reverie of "What the Devil Wanted," and low-key power balladry of "Crazy About You" all prove that, despite his reckless public persona, Ryan Adams had gained a wealth of maturity and intelligence (at least as a songwriter and recording artist) since the last time he'd entered a recording studio. Pneumonia was recorded in 1999, but the closing of Outpost Records in the wake of that year's Polygram/ Universal merger put the album on the shelf for two years; in the meantime, Pneumonia developed an underground reputation as a lost classic, and while that description is going a bit far to make a point, it is an undeniably striking and beautifully crafted set of songs, and it's interesting to imagine where this music would have taken Whiskeytown if the album had met its original release date -- assuming that Whiskeytown was still a band by the time the record was finished.
Rolling Stone - Robert Santelli
Anchored by core members Ryan Adams (who released an impressive solo album, Heartbreaker, last year), Mike Daly and Caitlin Cary, and helped along by the Replacements' Tommy Stinson, the Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha and drummer-producer Ethan Johns, Pneumonia is a strong collection of Wilco-like ballads and pop-ish midtempo musings on love, loss and life lessons.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/22/2001
Label:
Lost Highway
UPC:
0008817019925
catalogNumber:
170199
Rank:
43471

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Whiskeytown   Primary Artist
Jennifer Condos   Bass
James Iha   Guitar,Background Vocals
Ethan Johns   Bass,Guitar,Mandolin,Percussion,Drums,Keyboards,Mandocello
Brad Rice   Guitar
Tommy Stinson   Dobro,Guitar
Mike Daly   Dulcimer,Guitar,Mandolin,Pedal Steel Guitar,Keyboards,Background Vocals,Mandocello,Lap Steel Guitar
Ryan Adams   Guitar,Harmonica,Piano,Vocals
Caitlin Cary   Fiddle,Background Vocals
Richard Causon   Keyboards

Technical Credits

Ethan Johns   Producer,Engineer
Trina Shoemaker   Engineer
Randy Brion   Arranger
Sue Kappa   Engineer
Ryan Adams   Art Direction

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