Whiskeytown – Rural Free Delivery – EP

Rural Free Delivery – EP (1997)


1. Take Your Guns To Town 2. Nervous Breakdown 3. Tennessee Square 4. Captain Smith 5. Macon, Georgia County Line 6. Pawn Shop Ain’t No Place For A Wedding Ring 7. Oklahoma 8. Angels Are Messengers From God


Not released until a couple of months preceding Strangers Almanac, but recorded in 1995, pre-Faithless Street, Rural Free Delivery is a document of a time when Ryan Adams wanted to be Jay Farrar so bad you almost want to give him a bowl cut yourself. The extent to which Ryan rips off Farrar’s style and vocal mannerisms here reaches epidemic proportions, and by staying closely hewn to the Uncle Tupelo precedent, Whiskeytown make this EP their most unabashedly hickiest record. They’d shift closer to a recognizable “country-rock” paradigm later on, but for now, there’s fiddles a-sawin’, harmonicas a-blowin’ and fake Southern accents a-drawlin’. And because this is a very young band that has not yet developed much of a sense of subtlety—the EP has a very booming, brash quality to it—the success of the hoedown thing depends pretty much entirely on the quality of the songwriting. So no wonder the best song here is the cover of Black Flag’s seminal “Nervous Breakdown,” which is just all kinds of awesome. They transform it like Uncle Tupelo transformed “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” making it sound so seamlessly countrified that you’d never imagine it was once a hard rock song. You simply must hear it.

The originals are generally solid, but occasionally hit and miss. You get early versions of a couple of tunes that ended up on Faithless Street, so those are good, of course (I think I might actually prefer this take of “Tennessee Square” to the album version). “Oklahoma” was originally on the album, too, but Ryan apparently hates it and excised it from the reissue in favor of about 12 replacement tracks. Maybe because he realized the Farrar aping had gotten a bit too out of control on that particular track? I actually like the song, and it seems like more of an “inspired by” than an “imitation of.” Unlike, say, the attempted bluegrass-speed “Macon, Georgia County Line,” which desperately wants to be on No Depression but fails largely due to its violently botched harmonies. But geez, these guys are still just kids at this point, and so let them make a few derivative blunders in search of their own identity.

This EP is a bit indicative of the over-abundant quantity of material that would come to define Adams’ career (your debut EP and it’s got eight songs on it? That’s full album length! Sure, I guess it’s only 24 minutes long, but they could’ve just done what most bands do when they’re short on material – needlessly jam out one song for 10 minutes and voila! It’s an LP!), but it’s solid, and it’s fun to hear him sounding so hick. So it’s a decent listen, as long as you’re not one of those people that make ridiculously moronic blanket statements like “I don’t like country music.” And I know those people are out there. Fuck those people. Flippantly dismissing an entire genre of music is a stupid enough thing to do, but if you’re really into rock ‘n roll and say, “I don’t like Latin jazz” or “I don’t like polka” or something, I can at least understand that, since those genres don’t really have anything to do with rock music. But, first of all, country music is a pretty fucking vital foundation for rock ‘n roll music in general, so it’s not like they’re diametrically opposed genres – in fact, they’re fairly inseparable if you ask me. And second of all, if you base a dislike of country music on, like, Toby Keith, you’re stupider than you look, because that shit IS NOT COUNTRY MUSIC. Judging country music by what you hear on modern country radio is like judging all rock music based on Korn. In other words, it’s incredibly closed-minded and stupid, but I have I feeling a lot of people do it. Did you know there was well over a half-century’s worth of classic country and Southern music made before Nashville started churning out gross arena rock by and for right-wing conservatives? SO GO LISTEN TO IT. Yeah, yeah, I know someone decided it was cool to like Johnny Cash because they made a movie about him, but you know, there’s more to country than Johnny Cash. So if you don’t stop saying “I don’t like country music” than you’re a STUPID ASSHOLE.

In conclusion, Rural Free Delivery gets a B and, holy shit, is A.J. Burnett really the only thing standing between the Yankees and playoff elimination right now? Naw, can’t be. I must be dreaming.

One Comment

  1. Emily wrote:

    I concur with your pro-country rant.

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