Category Archives: Books

Doomed to Fail: The Incredibly Loud History of Doom, Sludge, and Post-Metal, by J.J. Anselmi

Title: Doomed to Fail

Author: J.J. Anselmi

Publisher: Rare Bird

Publication Date: February 11, 2020

By Michael Toland

At this point, tons of books on heavy metal fill the shelves, from encyclopedias to historical narratives. While there are a few of the former sitting around, there are few, if any, longform tomes that focus specifically on the metallic subgenre doom. With Doomed to Fail, J.J. Anselmi, writer for Noisey and A.V. Club and author of the memoir Heavy, attempts to change that with a selective history that tries to tie the sound generated by Black Sabbath to the later subgenres of sludge- and post-metal. It’s a logical progression, and one worth following.

Unfortunately, Anselmi’s path meanders more than it advances. There’s no mistaking his knowledge of his subject, and he shines welcome spotlights on bands and scenes that have long deserved it in metal histories, like the NOLA scene spawned by Eyehategod and Crowbar, or the work of doom metal diehard Scott “Wino” Weinrich. Plus, his passion for his subject shines through, especially on the chapters on the sludge metal pioneers. But often it feels like that passion has gotten in his way, as too many chapters feel like he’s eagerly careened from artist to artist, iteration to iteration, without stopping to give them proper context. While he goes in-depth on most of the artists, from Sabbath to Crowbar to Isis to Chelsea Wolfe, it feels more like a survey of his record collection than it does an actual thematic evolution. The result is a somewhat haphazard tale that skips important developments (despite covering Weinrich in depth, Anselmi pretty much ignores the D.C./Virginia/Maryland scene the Obsessed leader jumpstarted, as well as its attendant European counterpart led by German label Hellhound) and even bands (modern standard bearer Electric Wizard gets passing mention but no real coverage, which is puzzling even if Anselmi thinks the band too cartoonish), and ends up concentrating too long on some acts while slighting others.

Anselmi’s stylistic facility isn’t in doubt – there were several passages that made me think, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.” But his focus and organizational skills are lacking – something a good editor could help him with, though on evidence of Doomed to Fail, that’s something his publisher was missing.

The BLURT Zine Roundup (Fall/Winter 2019 Edition)

Support your local fanzine and the bands it covers…. Plus, your local independent printer and/or copy shop!


 Big Stir magazine (#4)

This terrific little mag is relatively new on the zine scene. Editors Rex and Christina (they run the Big Stir records label and are in the band The Armoires…in addition to all of that I think they probably have real jobs, too!) popped out 3 quick issues and here’s #4. This ish is color/glossy all the way through and just has a real cool look to it (thanks to main artist Joseph Champniss) and has interview with Russ Tolman/Steve Wynn (they ask each other questions), plus Nelson Bragg, Kimberly Rew, Matthew Seligman, Robbie Rist and plenty more. Oh, and not just music…there’s recipes in this baby, too! You won’t not like it. You just won’t (in fact you’ll probably love it!).

The Big Takeover (#84)

You can count on Jack Rabid’s Big Takeover mag like clockwork, every June and December (like daylight savings time…which was just last night, well the end of it anyway).  Bob Mould is the cover star for this ish (and the interview with him is excellent) and in addition to that you’ve got long interviews with The Beths, Joe Jackson, The Cyrkle, Chip Kinman, Bev Davis, plus part 2 of both The Alvvays and Walter Lure interviews. There’s also the usual short takes of lotsa other bands and a boatload of reviews (yup, boatload…think The Love Boat). At 152 pages it’ll keep you occupied for a good long while.

Dynamite Hemorrhage (#7)

Former Superdope editor Jay Hinman is back and D.H. is still going strong (thankfully). This one is another half-sized one and, like I said about the previous issue, it looks fantastic (clean layout). In this ish he has interviews with Neutrals’ Sofie Herner plus the late Mike Atta from the Middle Class, Bridget Hayden, the Ex-Lion Tamers and a terrific overview of every issue of Forced Exposure (???!!!). There’s plenty of reviews, too.  Jay’s still got the enthusiasm of his 20-year-old self.   Believe it.

Incremental Decrepitude (#6)

 Mr. Dave Brushback is back. I wish he’d publish more often but he runs on this own schedule, we call it Brushback time. You probably remember Dave from the mags Run It and Brushback as well as others. This one is another pocked-sized ish. He’s got interviews with Rob Noyes, Richie Records and Stefan of C/Site Recordings. There’s also record, show and zine reviews so he packs a lot in to not a ton of pages.  I’ve always liked Dave’s writing style (he doesn’t mince words). Could be gone but still write to him to find out.

Own the Whole World (#17)

I could swear that Arizonan (ex-Ohioan) Bob Forward had a new ish out of O.T.W.W. (#18?)  but I’m not finding it, I know he is working on a new one so be on the lookout.

Skill Shot (#53)

This is Gordon Gordon’s pinball zine out of Seattle (he used to do the great punk mag WDC Period years ago). It’s thin and glossy and covers the Seattle pinball scene like a blanket. Lots of fun and interesting graphics and very small type. Plus go to his site as it has a pinball map plus a link to a calendar, his blog and his podcast well. Also, how to order back issues.

Ugly Things (#51)

This the latest one from Mike Stax and his crew but there’s probably gonna be a new one out any day/week. Mike’s been putting these things out at such a rapid rate it’s hard to keep up. This ish of the mag that features “ugly sounds from past dimensions” has Randy Holden from Blue Cheer plus Wally Bryson (from The Choir), Night Shadows, Lenny Kaye, Peter Laughner and too much more, really. At 160 pages it’s a garage rock bible Read and then read again (I’m still finishing up issues #’s 48-50…slow reader here and lots to consume).

Vulcher (#5)

Yes! The Vulcher crew are back and I can only assume that issue #6 is around the corner.  Eddie Flowers, Kelsey Simpson and “Sonic” Sam Murphy run the show with a long list of contributors (including yours truly). They all kick out the jams here and inside there’s contributions from Byron Coley, Rich & Melanie Coffee, Eric Friedl, Bob Forward, Shane Ringo and like 100 more. Eddie does a piece on Exek and Cropped Out festival while I chipped in with a piece on the Vulgar Boatmen. There’s also a Bob Bert interview and tons more.  Thick as a brick, this one is essential reading.


Tim Hinely knows a thing or two about fanzine publishing, as rumors have it that he has put out legendary ‘zine Dagger since, apparently, the Watergate impeachment era. Maybe even the Andrew Johnson trial. “I just might cover this one, too,” muses Hinely, “although, if that Sarah Records label reunion tour actually happens, all bets are off.”

Cruel To Be Kind: The Life And Music Of Nick Lowe, by Will Birch

Title: Cruel To Be Kind

Author: Will Birch

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Publication Date: August 20, 2019

Da Capo Press

By John B. Moore

Nick Lowe should be as well-known as Springsteen… or at the very least, Elvis Costello. And by musicians, of just about all stripes, he is. But to the casual music listener, aside from his 1984 earworm, “Cruel To be Kind,” (initially released five years prior, to little notice), many have no idea just how influential he is as a musician, songwriter, producer and all around dapper guy who has seamlessly segued from a hippie to a pub rocker to a beloved troubadour over the past five decades. And Will Birch’s bio brilliantly and lovingly documents that transition. Mass stardom has always been elusive for Lowe, but at some point, he simply stopped focusing on the masses and discovered a decidedly smaller, but rabidly loyal audience.

A longtime music journalist, and one who moved in many of the same music circles as Lowe throughout the years – he was a member of British pub-rock group Kursaal Flyers, followed by power popsters The Records, and he also worked with both Dave Edmunds and Billy Bremner, who of course were in Rockpile with Lowe – Birch had phenomenal access to the singer and those who worked with him over the decades. The obligatory childhood stories are all here as are his first fits and starts of becoming a famous musician, but the most compelling sections begin when Lowe’s longtime manager co-founded Stiff Records and, along with putting out his solo records, brought Lowe on to produce everyone from an up-coming Elvis Costello (soon to be a lifelong Lowe friend) to The Damned (for the record, Lowe produced what is arguable the very first punk song).

Despite an obvious close relationship with Lowe, Birch doesn’t skim past his personality quirks (at times, he seemed like the definition of a curmudgeon), or his alcoholism. But his history with Lowe provides for some impressive anecdotes few others could offer.

Despite, or more likely because of, his disparate career, Lowe has evolved into a dependably brilliant performer. Cruel To Be Kind is a bio worthy of his quirky and irresistible reputation.

The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard, by Brian T. Atkinson

Title: The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard

Author: Brian T. Atkinson

Publisher: Texas A&M University Press

Publication Date: September 02, 2019


Ray Willie Hubbard may not be top of mind to casual Country/Americana music fans, but he certainly influenced a slew of the musicians making that music today.

It seems rather appropriate then that Hubbard’s peers and acolytes would come together to explain his musical brilliance in writing. The Messenger (272pp), though not the best book to explain the life and career of Hubbard (that one would be his own 2015 memoir, A Life… Well, Lived), it does a pretty solid job of explaining his appeal by those who know him best. Chronicled by Brian T. Atkinson, the book collects an army of interviews from friends, peers and followers; folks like Bobby Bare, Steve Earle, Ben Kweller and Chris Robinson, among many, many others. But the most touching tributes come in the forewords, by longtime pal Jerry Jeff Walker and relative newcomer (at least compared to Walker and Hubbard) Hayes Carll. One of the best stories recounted here is the 1973 live version of Hubbard’s “Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother,” covered by Walker on his live album with a shout out to the song’s author in the intro, a move that brought a lot more attention to Hubbard’s own work.

The book covers his early years, playing folk music in college as part of Three Faces West, and his evolution to a folk/country singer songwriter on par with Walker, Kris Kristofferson and Guy Clark. Like his memoir, The Messenger is pretty frank about his substance problems drawing a clear distinction between his pre- and post- sober career.  A strong book, paired nicely with A Life… Well, Lived, this latest entry in the Hubbard library is further proof of just how influential his music remains today.

Perfect Sound Forever Interviews Jim DeRogatis on R. Kelly

As PSF mainman Jason Gross and the rest of the world ponders – how did we let him abuse young black girls for years?

By Fred Mills

I’ll keep this brief. I have known veteran journalist Jim DeRogatis for decades, stretching back to when both of us were contributors to a humble little East Coast zine called The Bob. His career as a thorough, ethical, and – let’s say it – relentless reporter speaks for itself.

Meanwhile, I will second my above sentiments for the equally veteran journalist Jason Gross, founder/editor of acclaimed music website Perfect Sound Forever (and no small fry when it comes to his contributions over the years to Blurt and other publications of note, incidentally).

So these two vets recently had a summit regarding DeRo’s explosive new book, Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly. I trust I do not need to supply an introductory statement as regards the (cough) good Mr. Kelly and his (cough) legacy. Just go to the latest Perfect Sound Forever and read on… and then pass the link on as well.


Begin The Begin: R.E.M.’s Early Years, by Robert Dean Lurie

Title: Begin The Begin: R.E.M.’s Early Years

Author: Robert Dean Lurie

Publisher: Verse Chorus Press

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Published by Verse Chorus Press, the 288-page volume is a crucial read that fully captures what made the Athens wonderboys so special in the first place.


There have been numerous books written about Athens-based R.E.M. dating back to the mid-1990s, but few seem as personal as the latest entry from former Athenian Robert Dean Lurie.

The book strength can also, at times, be its biggest weakness. The author, a BLURT contributor who moved to Athens, GA in the ‘90s, in part thanks to its burgeoning music scene, inserts his own narrative into some of the book. But while it can be a little distracting at times, overall, it’s these personal anecdotes and detailed descriptions of living in that college town that bring it alive and allow it to stand out among all of the other R.E.M. bios that came before it.

Another big advantage, along with having the hindsight to be able to look back on the band almost a decade after they dissolved, is that Lurie focuses a bulk of the book on the band’s founding and first few albums. He ends the narrative in 1987, before the band leaves their indie label for Warner Bros on a track that would bring them global stardom. By focusing on the early years, he can home in on what made the band so unique at the time. Through interviews with the band’s college friends, many who knew the members before R.E.M. came together, Lurie is able to piece together a detailed, insightful and thoroughly exhaustive narrative of the band at its founding and slightly before.

Begin The Begin may not be the first book on R.E.M., but it’s a crucial read for anyone looking to understand R.E.M. and how they were able to create such a massive impact on modern American music.

Full disclosure: Blurt editor Fred Mills contributed to the book’s selection of photos.

Teen Movie Hell, by Mike “McBeardo” McPadden

Title: Teen Movie Hell

Author: Mike "McBeardo" McPadden

Publisher: Bazillion Points

Publication Date: April 16, 2019

Subtitled “A Crucible of Coming-Of-Age Comedies From Animal House to Zapped!,” the 360-page look at, yes, adolescent-targeted T&A flicks delivers.


Given today’s current sensitivities around, well, just about everything, it’s hard to image even a third of the movies profiled in Mike McPadden’s fantastically entertaining encyclopedia of teen comedies, Teen Movie Hell, ever being made. But for those who grew up in the ‘80s trying to catch a glimpse of nudity via scrambled cable movies on channels you didn’t subscribe to, or their slightly more watered down cinematic siblings on basic cable shows like USA’s Up All Night, this book serves as the bible of raunchy comedies we never knew we needed until now.

McPadden and his contributors take an almost scholarly approach to dissecting the appeal of these mostly-low budget T&A filled comedies. Though they reach back to the 1960’s to start the evolution of these movies, the bulk were gifted to us via Ragan’s greedy Me, Me, Me era of the 1980s. The majority of Teen Movie Hell is made of an alphabetical listing and review of the most seminal and in some cases, under the radar also rans – of teen-focused ranch coms, from 1988’s After School (aka Private Tutor: Return to Eden) to 1978’s Zuma Beach.

Sprinkled throughout are some positively impressive essays about the films from this era, specifically Kat Ellinger’s The Ellinger Code: Teen Sex Comedies in the Age of #MeToo and for All Eternity and the importance of abortion as a real topic being introduced to teens for the first time via Fast Times at Ridgemont High in Wendy McClure’s strong essay The Free Clinic Isn’t Free.


Teen Movie Hell is so much more than a guide to the golden era of teen movie raunch (although that’s definitely, thankfully a part of it). But it stands as a brilliant look at a different time from authors who were the prime targets of those movies, giving a part nostalgic, part cringe-worthy tour of a time period in cinematic history that will likely never be revived.



’80s Ohio Fanzine “The Offense” Gets Book’d in Fine Style

A true legend and an indie-rock groundbreaking media outlet, the ’80s Ohio-based fanzine featured on Ohio television in “Cocteau Fever” (below), goes big with the 900-page “Book of Books” Collection, compiling the essential original print run. (Full disclosure: BLURT editor Fred Mills would become a regular contributor to the zine, and has no regrets whatsoever… )

If the tens of thousands of people who have viewed 10TV Eyewitness News coverage of “Cocteau Fever” on YouTube end up purchasing The Offense Book of Books, then its publisher will be very happy. Do you remember posting that video on your site a few years ago ( Well, the Columbus, Ohio alternative music fanzine that was responsible for first spreading Cocteau Fever throughout the land can now be blamed for something else — The Offense Book of Books, which was released on January 3, 2019 and is a two-volume collection of all 888 pages of all 15 issues of The Offense, which appeared in its original “book” format from April, 1980 to March, 1982 before switching to a newsletter style and becoming The Offense Newsletter.

Offense publisher/editor/least-talented contributor Tim Anstaett: “My New Year’s resolution for 2018 was one way or another to get The Offense Book of Books out, which I had unsuccessfully attempted to do on several occasions in the past. And although at times this year the situation seemed to be quite dire, I never gave up, and ultimately the promise that I had made to myself for 2018 … ALMOST was kept!”

Tim’s involvement with the local alternative music scene in Columbus began in December, 1979, when he began booking bands from his own town and other Midwestern cities into Mr. Brown’s, a small club that was located a few blocks south of the Ohio State University campus. His stint there lasted four months, during which time the owner generously gave to Tim a total of 47 nights to fill. This represented quite a departure from what music fans in Columbus had by that time become accustomed to, and had sadly resigned themselves to, which was only being able to enjoy very-few-and-far-between opportunities to see good bands. Now, for the very first time, the music suddenly found itself gaining a true foothold in the city. And then only two weeks after the last show that Tim promoted at Mr. Brown’s had taken place, the first issue of The Offense was born on April 11, 1980. And two years after that, he switched to a morefrequentlypublished newsletter format and eventually resumed his booking of bands, bringing to Columbus such alternative music luminaries as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (three times), the Pixies (twice), The Fall (twice), and yes, the Cocteau Twins.

The first issue of The Offense was completely handwritten by Tim, and he was its only contributor. It was rather sloppily put together and included scene reports that he had written about towns that he had recently visited with the Cowboys, a local Columbus band that he had booked into Mr. Brown’s many times and was now managing and mismanaging. However, by the fanzine’s eighth issue its looks had greatly improved, circulation had increased to 1,000, and four distributors had come aboard (Rough Trade, Systematic, Skydisc, and Important), which helped the publication to become nationally and internationally known. It was called The Offense because its mission was to go on the offensive and help spread the word about all of the great new music that was happening. The letters of its name were titled forward because the zine was moving in the direction that the arrow going through those slanted letters was pointing — ahead. Issues regularly included heated letters to the editor; freewheeling interviews; analytical record, cassette, and live reviews; and scene reports written by people who actually lived in the cities that they wrote about.

Tim Anstaett can be contacted at He has organized a few book release parties/readings in Columbus for The Offense Book of Books, at which many of the fanzine’s past contributors will be reading some of their favorite published pieces that they wrote. These are the events that have been scheduled thus far (all times Eastern):

Friday, January 11, 2019   6:00-8:00pm   Lost Weekend Records, 2690 N. High St.
Saturday, January 19, 2019   2:00-7:00pm   Ace of Cups, 2619 N. High St.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019   7:30-9:00pm   Two Dollar Radio HQ, 1124 Parsons Ave.

The Ace of Cups event will also include live musical performances from some of the past contributors (Nancy Kangas, Ron House, Mike Rep, and Paul Nini).


The Offense Book of Books is published by Biblio Publishing, 1091 W. First Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43212 (614-485-0721) and is now available through Amazon (at a single book is pictured, but it is the entire two-volume package that is described) and also through the Biblio Bookstore (at, the price listed is for the complete two-volume set). Anyone who can order three or more of the two-volume sets should not click one of the above links but instead either call Biblio Publishing or send an email to, as that will enable him or her to receive a 25% discount on the order and lower the cost of each set from $89.95 to $67.47 (plus shipping). At the two January readings in Columbus, two-volume sets will be available for $70 each, and the purchaser will also receive a free, original, mint-condition back issue of The Offense of his or her choice for each set that he or she buys (back issues of seven of the fifteen Offenses are still available at this time.)



From ye olde editor: I’m Fred Mills, and I approve this press release. I count Tim (who we “Offense” contributors knew as simply TKA back in the day) as both a peer and a mentor, as he was among the very first music publication publishers to take a chance on my (admittedly tenuous grasp of) rock journalism and make me a published scribe. So now you know who to blame. Tim, you remain an inspiration among your fellow zine writers and editors, and I have no doubt that you are similarly revered among those artists and bands you selflessly championed early on, long before they had achieved any measure of recognition in America. Salute, good sir!

Jeff Buckley: From Hallelujah To The Last Goodbye, by Dave Lory with Jim Irvin

Title: Jeff Buckley: From Hallelujah To The Last Goodbye

Author: Dave Lory with Jim Irvin

Publisher: Post Hill Press

Publication Date: May 29, 2018

The late singer’s former manager delivers the definitive account of his young charge’s tragically short career.


 Considering how influential Jeff Buckley remains (despite only having one studio album released during his lifetime) and the mystery surrounding his early death, it’s surprising that more books have not been written about the young artist. Regardless, his former manager, Dave Lory, has just turned in the definitive book on the musician.

Having worked side by side with Buckley — literally in some cases, as he drove the singer/guitarist across the west coast for one of his early solo tours — Lory knew Buckley better than most at a pivotal time in his career, as he was just signing his first record deal. Lory was there as Buckley built up his backing band, cycling through members, through the recording of Grace, and on countless treks across the globe, offering a uniquely personal remembrance of the singer. While there is certainly a lot of love and admiration in their relationship, Lory also doesn’t filter the experiences by painting the musician as a saint – as is often the case of books about long-passed rock stars. Buckley could act like a dick at times and be highly manipulative, and Lory, to his credit, isn’t afraid to share anecdotes. He also doesn’t shy away from Buckley’s growing drug use.

On the other hand, this is hardly a salacious tell-all, as the author spends plenty of time showing Buckley as a wildly talented, uncompromising artist, who could be sweet and thoughtful at times, with a famous, though demonstrably absent father, who constantly threatened to overshadow his son’s own career despite being dead for decades.

The story around the younger Buckley’s own death is recounted in vivid detail here, as Lory remembers first getting the call that the musician was swept away while wading into the Mississippi River late one night while in Memphis recording what was to be his second album. Lory goes into harrowing and deeply personal details as he describes his state as well as those closest to Buckley in the days that passed before the body was finally found.

Though Buckley was just starting his ascent onto the global musical stage when he died, his debut album remains a stellar promise of an impressive career that was supposed to come and with this book (288 pages, in hardcover), Lory has managed to give us all a look into the young musician’s life as he went about putting that album together and working on its follow up.



Waiting To Derail: Ryan Adams & Whiskeytown, by Thomas O’Keefe

Title: Waiting To Derail: Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown, Alt-country’s Brilliant Wreck

Author: Thomas O’Keefe with Joe Oestreich

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Publication Date: June 26, 2018

Yes, all those stories about Adams WERE true: erstwhile tour manager for the band delivers a crucial fly-on-the-wall memoir.


With the late, great alternative country Tar Heel band Whiskeytown, it was always a Gumpian prospect: Like the proverbial box of chocolates, you never knew what you were gonna get. Not due to design, of course; the band itself was a brilliant assemblage of talent, and they busted their asses night after night and created some of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest records. But when you have a frontman as mercurial and erratically-behaving as Ryan Adams, there’s only so much you can do; by some accounts, Whiskeytown must have been eerily like Trump’s White House at times, given the chaos Adams could create.

Okay, that’s unfair. We are talking rock ‘n’ roll, traditionally repository of rebels, weirdos, eccentrics, misfits, and outright psychopaths. So I’ll amend the above statement to simply characterize Adams’ bandmates as “long suffering.” And they clearly got something out of the deal, particularly violinist/co-vocalist Caitlin Cary, who seemingly stuck by Adams pretty much to the bitter end, weathering the frequent roster departures of others and, if appearances are accurate, helping serve as a semi-stabilizing force during those times when Adams went off the rails.

Speaking of those rails, we have Waiting To Derail by, full disclosure, my old friend Tom O’Keefe, who I had known pretty well during the ‘80s and early ‘90s while living in Charlotte and hanging out often with Tom and his bandmates in Queen City punk legends ANTiSEEN. In his new memoir, O’Keefe recounts how he subsequently became Whiskeytown’s tour manager circa 1997 through the band’s 2000 split. I would hesitate to also characterize him as “long suffering” because he signed up for the (paying) gig knowing, at least partly, what he would be getting himself into, something the band members themselves aren’t necessarily privy to when they first get together to make music en route to a full-time excursion into codependency. Plus, O’Keefe can legitimately say that in addition to the teeshirt, he got one hell of a story to tell the grandkids. Here, he’s joined by co-author Joe Oestreich, a journalist and author of several books as well as a professor of creative writing at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina.

Waiting To Derail kicks off, prologue-style, in colorful enough fashion, with Adams half-passed out and surrounded by EMTs and police, vitals being carefully checked and rechecked. As the incident finally winds down and the EMTs pack up their gear, one of the policemen turns and speaks to O’Keefe: “Goddam, son, I wouldn’t trade jobs with you for anything.” Whew. When a copy says something like that, it’s saying a lot.

Appropriately enough, the book’s first section is titled “The Sheriff of Whiskeytown,” recounting how O’Keefe got the job by (a) having had some prior experience handling tour manager duties and appearing to be moderately stable (admittedly, a very relative term in rock ‘n’ roll); and (b) because he was living in Raleigh, and as Whiskeytown had just finished cutting their major label debut, Strangers Almanac, for Outpost/Geffen, his Austin-based management desperately needed, as O’Keefe puts it, “somebody on the ground to shepherd Ryan and the band through their next touring cycle.” A lot was riding on Whiskeytown, deemed the blossoming alt-country scene’s number one rising star but, thanks to their frontman, already had a bit of a reputation. Writes O’Keefe, “During Whiskeytown’s most recent string of shows—on the No Depression tour, sharing the stage with the Old 97’s, Hazeldine, and the Picketts—Ryan and the band had been woefully inconsistent. They would play a tight set of stellar songs one night and then be drunk and sloppy the next.”

From there we follow Officer O’Keefe as he does indeed shepherd Adams across the musical landscape, from seeing that his charge is awake and lucid enough for scheduled interviews and getting to band rehearsals on time, to carefully doling out the daily per diems so the musicians won’t blow all their dough the first night and ensuring Adams doesn’t get completely hammered before going onstage. Among the memorable scenes:

–A booking at a sports bar in East Lansing where, with many of the patrons preferring to watch the Detroit Tigers on TV, a drunken Adams grows frustrated and belligerent and deliberately starts playing sloppily. A back-and-forth of “fuck yous” between audience members and Adams ensues, and the singer eventually storms offstage, resulting in a rock- and beercan-throwing altercation in the parking lot. “Ryan would hold a grudge against East Lansing for years,” writes O’Keefe. (Presciently, it seems, as many years later, as a solo artist based in New York City, Adams would take umbrage at perceived slights by former associates in Raleigh and vow never to play his old homebase again.)

–Another show, in Aspen, where, in front of a couple hundred people, among them actor Kevin Costner, Adams, who’d decided that Whiskeytown was not “a ski town band,” yanked his amplifier to “11” and, with wall of noise blasting, dropped to his knees and lay flat on the stage for 25 minutes.

–A promotional appearance at a radio station that had been airing the band’s “16 Days” and had requested that they perform it live in the studio, culminates in Adams repeatedly refusing. (O’Keefe: “It was a standoff, and I felt like a UN negotiator.”) The back and forth continues, and finally Adams blurts into the mic, “I don’t have to kiss some guy’s dick just because he wants to hear the single”—at which point Whiskeytown is summarily ejected from “the most important AAA station in America.”

–A late night scare, after a show back at the hotel, where a very fucked-up Adams, upon inspecting the balcony overlooking the 12-story atrium, declares to O’Keefe and the others, “I can fly,” and proceeds to climb up on the railing, “faking like he was going to do a half gainer,” and has to be swiftly grabbed by the waist and dragged down off the railing.

In between his colorful, sometimes-soberly related/sometimes-hilariously spun anecdotes, O’Keefe offers up a series of helpful expository tutorials—Adams’ and Cary’s pre-Whiskeytown background; how the alt-country movement was born and evolved, as well as how North Carolina’s Triangle area—and Raleigh in particular—embraced the scene; the jealousy backlash that a number of locals unleashed on Whiskeytown after the band began wowing the critics and gradually became the most prominent act to emerge from the city. (In that regard Waiting To Derail is an able companion to a previous book about Adams, 2012’s Losering, written by Raleigh News & Observer music critic David Menconi; fans of either volume will definitely delight in the other.)

But of course, as this book is an insider account, you’ve come primarily for the behind the scenes stuff and not the history lesson, right? And O’Keefe does not disappoint. His memory is remarkably clear, his insights into Adams’ personality and motivations profound. Anyone who’s ever worked as a tour manager for a rock band will tell you that they have to be a cat wrangler, a den mother, and a psychologist in addition to taking care of mundane stuff like making sure everyone gets their per diems and the club owner doesn’t stiff them. Waiting To Derail, then, is the type of book that any fan of rock ‘n’ roll—and of course all fans of Adams— will devour precisely for its fly-on-the-wall qualities and how it provides a sharp-lensed view of what goes on after the lights come on and the gear is packed up.

In 2018, Thomas O’Keefe is a music industry veteran with a hugely impressive resume, having worked with the likes of big names like Train, Third Eye Blind, Sia, and, currently, Weezer. Undoubtedly his years spent with Whiskeytown served him well—if his early stint as bassist for “destructo rockers” ANTiSEEN was his rock ‘n’ roll boot camp, then think of his three years in the trenches with Whiskeytown as his tour of Iraq and Afghanistan. Considering all he had to deal with, he deserves a freakin’ purple heart.