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Pneumonia

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Album Review

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.

Customer Reviews

no more whiskeytown??

this is a fantastic record, but why is it the only whiskeytown album on itunes, get strangers almanac and faithless street on here too. If you like ryans solo stuff you'll love this. Pneumonia is a classic up-tempo piece of work by the ryan adams show.

Not bad

The previous review says it all; sure this is a reasonable album, well worthy of at least a three star rating but frankly not a patch on the brilliant "Strangers Almanac" which is a flawless rock album sadly unavailable at the time of writing on i tunes.

Patchy but expected

Considering the messy, drawn out events surrounding it's eventual release, Pneumonia isn't bad but it sounds like the creation of a fragmenting band (which it is). Too many things going on and caught between power pop (Mirror Mirror, Crazy About You, Don't Be Sad), country rock (Ballad Of Carol Lynn, Easy Hearts) and forced experimentation (Paper Moon, What The Devil Wanted, To Be Evil). However, in the middle of all this lies some of their best songs - Don't Wanna Know Why, Jacksonville Skyline and Sit & Listen to The Rain. There is an album's worth of material still in the vaults somewhere, here's hoping it sees the light of day and proves to be more like these three tracks...

Biography

Formed: 1994 in Raleigh, NC

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s

A band with as turbulent an existence as Whiskeytown was bound to implode sooner or later, but by the time they did, they had one of the largest cult followings of any alt-country band. Most accounts traced the source of all the turmoil to bandleader Ryan Adams, a gifted young songwriter whose flashes of brilliance came hand in hand with a volatile temper and an appetite for alcohol. Adams became notorious for his outbursts and erratic performances, and countless disputes with bandmates (some of...
Full bio