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Whiskeytown

Stranger's Almanac deluxe edition – 2008 (Outpost/Geffen/Ume)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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Although the quality and importance of Whiskeytown's major-label debut has been debated frequently over the 10-plus years since it was released, there is little argument that 1997's "Strangers Almanac" was the album that first brought Ryan Adams, the band's frontman, and his considerable talents as a songwriter, to widespread public attention and started paving the path that would lead to his success as a solo artist.

Geffen found the album worthy enough to give it the deluxe edition treatment by expanding the original 13-song set into a 2-disc marathon of music, featuring 26 additional tracks. The set's bonus tracks include everything from studio contributions to movie soundtracks to acoustic demos, covers, non-album tracks and live performances of songs from the album. Of particular note are the tracks from two of the band's most notable rehearsals - the Baseball Park sessions and Barn's on Fire sessions.

Also, a previously unreleased, 5-song radio performance from Santa Monica's KCRW-FM in September 1997 is one of the real gems, especially the stark reading of the historical wartime narrative "Houses on the Hill," which showcases Adams' vocal compatibility with Caitlyn Cary, the band's violinist.

No matter what your opinion of the original album is, this expanded version, with its wealth of previously unavailable material, provides an impressive historical look at Adams' development as a performer and songwriter. That should be reason enough for fans, both longtime and new, to give it a spin.