"Black Diamond" - Stan Ridgway / A440 / Birdcage Records
Stan Ridgway's "weird, wounded folkie on the road" masterpiece. The former Wall Of Voodoo singer spins strange and surreal tales, like a series of dreams that keep you up at night. Contains the secret 13th track hidden after the last track"Crystal Place", "Hear That Bird".
"Stan Ridgway's songs tell stories of the kind Mark Twain describes in his “How to Tell a Story” – humorous, incongruous, indisputably in the American grain – replete with characters speaking as if entirely in cryptic pick-up lines, hatching schemes and imagining masterplans that can only go awry, engaging in getaways, pushing their luck and offering explanations for the deals that transpire without them. “Behind every fortune,” thinks a character in Ridgway's “Down the Coast Highway,” echoing a famous statement of Balzac's, “there's got to be a crime.” Then there's the storyteller's unmistakable delivery, ranging from the deadpan to the deranged, with bursts from his harmonica to fill out the landscapes. - A. Miller / Campus Circle
A Little Too Smart For A Big Dumb Town
by B. Hutchinson
Maybe you heard that song when BLACK DIAMOND came out in 1996. It sounded great on the radio, but few were left to play it by then -- the *adult alternative* format had bitten the dust, replaced by *alternative rock* as I recall. Stan had lost his major label contract, and wrote these songs based on his dreams in the summer of 1995 -- the album is "dedicated to all dreams and spirits everywhere." It was released on the tiny Birdcage Records, and it is great to see it reissued by New West. Located in between the uneven PARTYBALL (91) and the half-instrumental ANATOMY (99), this is Stan's masterpiece of the '90s. It may even be his best record ever, but of course it has serious competition from his '80s records for that claim.
"Big Dumb Town" is brilliant, and no matter how many times I listen to it, I still puzzle over the lyrics -- the main character is an immoral sleazeball, certainly not a hero, and yet the big dumb town is not exactly portrayed positively either. In fact, it's easy to imagine Ridgway thinking of himself as being too smart for the record-buying public, and you or I, who appreciate his intelligent music, may think of ourselves that way too. The ambiguity here is definitely not something Dubya or his fans would understand.
"Wild Bill Donovan" is not quite as ambiguous -- superficially an old-fashioned folk song extolling the founder of the CIA as a hero, the intent is clearly ironic. The idea of a mock-tribute to a quasi-mythical spy is typical Ridgway brilliance. "Man of Stone" follows directly, which is apropos as it is an espionage dream sequence. "Gone the Distance" and "Stranded" are powerful and tragic:
"Is it all a million miles from where you are?" (Gone the Distance)
"She was standin' hear the railroad track when she first flagged me down, I was drivin' outa town all alone. Her face held every feelin' in, but her eyes gave her away, one look and you would say, no way home..." (Stranded)
"Knife and Fork" and "Down the Coast Highway" are more twisted vignettes, the first a portrait of a kinky hedonist, and the second a cheerful story with a stunning surprise ending.
There is more, much more, including a hidden bonus track that shifts the mood of the ending of the album from tragic to resigned acceptance. Stan Ridgway, like Dylan (and BLACK DIAMOND includes a cover of "As I Went Out One Morning" from JOHN WESLEY HARDING), creates music with the same level of craft of the great poets. He deserves to be recognized as one of the great American songwriters of our time. BLACK DIAMOND alone should secure his reputation -- don't miss it.
Stan Ridgway May 6 2007 @ McCabe's Santa Monica CA
By Anthony Miller
Stan Ridgway's songs tell stories of the kind Mark Twain describes in his “How to Tell a Story” – humorous, incongruous, indisputably in the American grain – replete with characters speaking as if entirely in cryptic pick-up lines, hatching schemes and imagining masterplans that can only go awry, engaging in getaways, pushing their luck and offering explanations for the deals that transpire without them.
“Behind every fortune,” thinks a character in Ridgway's “Down the Coast Highway,” echoing a famous statement of Balzac's, “there's got to be a crime.” Then there's the storyteller's unmistakable delivery, ranging from the deadpan to the deranged, with bursts from his harmonica to fill out the landscapes.
As he warbled his funny, eerie and melancholy tunes at McCabe's, Ridgway was utterly captivating, even when he tuned his guitar or unraveled a microphone cord from his mic stand.
Accompanied by Rick King on guitar, Amy Farris on viola, Joe Berardi on percussion, and Pietra Wexstun on keyboards, Ridgway performed older numbers like “Calling Out to Carol” and “Peg and Pete and Me” alongside “Wake Up Sally (the Cops are Here)” and “King for a Day” from what he called his “latest opus,” 2005's Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads and Fugitive Songs.
The former Wall of Voodoo frontman performed slowed-down versions of his '80s hit “Mexican Radio” and “Camouflage,” his tale of a soldier's encounter with a benevolently belligerent poltergeist in the Vietnamese jungle. He delved into “deeper Tarzana” with “Knife and Fork,” a declaration of love where cutlery has never sounded more amusingly lurid.
His stirring version of “Underneath the Big Green Tree” was among the best songs of the night and probably the best of the songs taken from his underrated 1995 Black Diamond. Riding along with Ridgway's songs, the audience traveled all over the map, stopping to check out a carnival here, a roadblock there and finally a madcap barbeque, (Ridgway and side project Drywall's 2006 "BBQ Babylon") before a grateful Ridgway put on the brakes, offering his thanks to the crowd.
Ridgway and band will be on tour this summer all over the US.
Be his "friend". God help us.
Stan Ridgway now at myspace.com: www.myspace.com/officialstanridgway
Stan Ridgway's "weird, wounded folkie on the road" masterpiece. The former Wall Of Voodoo singer spins strange and surreal tales, like a series of dreams that keep you up at night. Contains the secret 13th track, "Hear That Bird".
Some know him just as the long lost singer with the great Wall Of Voodoo, others as one of the great unsung maverick geniuses of our time. MELODY MAKER
For Stan Ridgway life is like an old detective movie, full of furtive con men and tough dames who hide their daily crimes in the gray mist of the city. This is mature music, short on sentimentality, long on imagination and style. PEOPLE MAGAZINE
Stan Ridgway has a cast of thousands at his fingertips, and a wealth of tales in his head. A rare and famous talent. Not part of any club or click, just a maverick in his own right. LONDON MIDWEEK
Stan Ridgway is one of the most unique and talented songwriters around. RECORD MIRROR
Haunted by America's pulp serial past, Stan Ridgway has become his own wireless theater. THE FACE
Stan Ridgway is equal parts Raymond Chandler and John Huston, Johnny Cash and Rod Serling. NME
Filtered through his sardonically insightful wit, these stories become engaging not only for the details he includes, but the ones he chooses not to expose as well. THE AUSTIN CHRONICLE
Stan Ridgway tells stories from the underside of America. It's the dream gone sour; the dream that never even took root. Tales of losers who battle on and play the game their own way, with a glamour-less beauty and a bath of realism...slices of lives that knew the rules have been drawn up 'someplace else'; characters that have to bluff to get by. FOLLOW MUSIC AUSTRALIA
An effective blend of Johnny Cash's morbidity, Bob Dylan's absurdist humour and Jim Thomspon"s bleak outlook, Black Diamond ought to earn Ridgway some new fans. OPTION
I wrote him this letter once, but I never sent it to him. He is a very American kind of songwriter, and he writes from the point of view of a detective or a person passing through town. People need to know about him. He is a brilliant writer. SUZANNE VEGA in HEAR MUSIC
Fast moving novellas full of dense musical imagery, peopled with characters from a human highway 61 revisited. THE FACE
More noises from America's lost frontier. His songs tell stories that unfold gradually and trade in old fashioned narrative devices like character and suspense. It's a move at once conservative and daring - but, best of all, it works. ROLLING STONE
Stan Ridgway is the Nathaniel West of rock. LA WEEKLY
Ridgway has the talent to hold your attention by telling a tale in the same intense and clear way that rockers like Neil Young and Lou Reed do. A cool Californian commentator with a sense of humor to match his sense of history. Q MAGAZINE
Ridgway's tales of the sad, soft underbelly of the American Dream are songs of hope petering into resignation, of idealism soured into cynicism; he's a very adult writer operating in an arena more usually home to the naive and infantile. THE INDEPENDENTS
In fact he's an ingenious writer with a grip on low - life imagery that hearkens back to that of Burroughs, Bukowski and Brecht.. If a moden American counterpart to Bertol Brecht's collaborations with Kurt Wiel exits, it's the music of Stan Ridgway. SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
If David Lynch were a musician, he would be Stan Ridgway. Both look at Leave It To Beaver America and see serial killers lurking beneath its porches. Both can infuse a simple everyday object with weirdness and dread, creating A world that;'s consistently disturbing, facinating and cool.
Its possible that Ridgway's change of stance reflects a more serious attitude toward his music. Ridgway isn't just a wise guy anymore. L.A .TIMES
Black Diamond is Ridway's best album in years, and it hit extremes of both detachment and passion that make it a career milestone. L.A. READER
What Are You Waiting For? Buy This CD And Spread the Word
Stan Ridgway is one of those "special" artists -- you know, the ones nobodys quite sure theyve heard of, but people
familiar with him just kind of wink, saying: Ive been there.
SR is film, hes music, hes literature, hes Johnny Cash and Rod Serling and Ennio Morricone and all sorts of other things
all rolled into one. If Harry Dean Stanton wrote tunes, hed be Stan Ridgway. If L.A. Confidential were a person, hed be
Every album Stans done is the best album hes ever done. Theyre addictive, theyre good driving music, and some stuff,
particularly on this CD and on the Drywall: Work the Dumb Oracle CD, will make you feel just a little uncomfortable to be
living in this day and age.
Underneath it all, Stan is a stunningly original talent. This is a fantastic CD.
Okay? Buy it. Just buy it. If you dont like it, who knows? Maybe youre not living on the right planet (or maybe you are,
and you just dont know it yet).
Here's a new review by Joeseph Taylor:
When Houghton Mifflin reissued a volume of three books by Richard
Brautigan a little more than ten years ago, Tom McGuane wrote of
his friend's work, "These books are fun to read. . .you can get all the
old fictional good things." New West Records has just reissued Stan
Ridgway's Black Diamond, which appeared briefly on a small label
in 1995 and disappeared from print soon after that. I want to state up
front that you can get all the old musical good things from it.
Ridgway is the kind of unique artist who can tempt critics into deep thoughts, and he
probably merits most of them. He's a natural storyteller who writes songs that
create a strong mood. He takes risks, and he's hard to peg -- not quite a pop singer,
but not so avant-garde as to be inaccessible. While he's uncompromising in his
approach, he's fun to listen to. Ridgway's a cult artist who should have a larger
following because he likes melody and he creates recordings that are intricate and
Black Diamond is a more open and spacious recording than the three discs that
preceded it, but there's plenty of sound for your gear to pull out of it. Sound is
important to Ridgway. He uses it to create atmosphere in an almost cinematic way,
injecting a keyboard sound or effect to suggest a setting or to underscore a point
(it's almost enough to make this two-channel listener consider surround sound). It
helps to be attuned to the cultural zeitgeist to truly appreciate what Ridgway is
getting at. He frequently makes sly references to movie soundtracks and bits of pop
Ridgway doesn't use these references cynically or as a shortcut to cheap emotion.
He uses them to help fill out the story he's telling. In "Big Dumb Town," a
heavily-tremeloed guitar helps create the same feeling of physical discomfort one
might feel around the confidence man the song describes. "Knife and Fork" uses an
odd, distorted keyboard sound to give an ominous edge to the story of a disturbed,
overeager seducer. Sometimes Ridgway uses a more straightforward approach.
"Luther Played Guitar" pays tribute to Johnny Cash's guitarist, Luther Perkins, by
employing the stark, moving simplicity of the Tennessee Two.
Since Ridgway creates his stories with humor and a measure of compassion, even
unsavory characters are never just stick figures. The narrator of "Knife and Fork" tells
the object of his affection that "for your sweet, sweet love I'll even go back on re-hab."
The mixture of creepiness and need is both disturbing and oddly moving. As a
singer, Ridgway inhabits his characters the way an actor does, and his
performances have some of the feel of musical theater -- slightly off-kilter musicals,
written by, say, thriller writer Jim Thompson.
It would be too easy to create a daunting "serious artist" aura around Ridgway,
which is what I set out to avoid here. There's no getting around the fact that he works
hard on his recordings and avoids clichés, both in the melodies he writes and in his
lyrics. Ridgway's a serious guy. Don't let that fact keep you from enjoying his music.
After I played Black Diamond three or four days in a row, my five-year-old son was
humming the beautiful, loping piano line that runs through "Knife and Fork." "I like
that, Dad," he told me.
You'll like it, too.
Stan Ridgway's "weird, wounded folkie on the road" masterpiece. The former Wall Of Voodoo singer spins strange and surreal tales, like a series of dreams that keep you up at night. Contains the secret 13th track, "Hear That Bird".
Stan talks from the original Press Release for the Record:
"Black Diamond, is a little different from anything I've ever written. It's a leaner, more intimate record, kind of old fashioned really, and at the risk of sounding like some wounded folkie, this is probably the most personal record I've made so far. I'd call it a song cycle for dreamers and schemers. The songs took shape during the summer of '95, at a time when I was coming to grips with a lot of conflicting thoughts and feelings: insecurity, loneliness, the need to control, bitterness, success, failure and, of course, the Big Three:anger, love and loss." Stan Ridgway's fourth solo album challenges more than a few of the assumptions that have been made about him as a songwriter.
"This is a record where I deliberately forced the songs to stand on their own," Ridgway says of Black Diamond's spare and spacious production. "The music is as simple and unadorned as we could make it. The musicians and I tried to let the songs flow out of our heads and onto the tape without a lot of fussiness and second-guessing in between. My true interest has always been in the surreal, the dream-states we encounter when we're asleep or wide awake with caffeine buzzing in our heads. And in fact," Ridgway says, "I wrote most of this music from dreams I'd had. I've really moved myself into fresh territory with these songs, I think."
Indeed, Black Diamond's songs explore music and moods that are both subtler and more far-ranging than anything Ridgway has previously attempted. An example of the singer's fascination with the dream state, "Stranded" melodically melts from one level of reality to the next, encompassing a ghostly, fractured Titanic slipping beneath the waves, an anxious lone hitchhiker and an object in decaying orbit destined for a fiery oblivion. By contrast, the warmly haunting "Luther Played Guitar" finds Ridgway stepping into the shoes of one of his heroes, Johnny Cash, to lament the passing of Luther Perkins, lead guitarist for the great balladeer's original band, The Tennessee Three.
"Stan Ridgway is equal parts Raymond Chandler and John Huston, Rod Serling and Johnny Cash. Haunted by America's pulp serial past, Ridgway has become his own wireless theater, with a cast of thousands at his fingertips and a wealth of tales in his head. A rare and famous talent." - THE FACE
"BLACK DIAMOND'S fast moving novellas are full of dense musical imagery, peopled with characters from a human highway 61 revisited." - NME
THE TUCSON WEEKLY - Jennifer Murphy
BLACK DIAMOND is the most intimate album to date from an artist who is more often compared to literary heavy-hitters like Carver, Chandler, and Ellroy than to other musicians, probably because nobody writes like or sounds even close to
Ridgway. On his fourth solo album, Ridgway strips the songs of their trademark spooky electronics and slows the tempo a bit to deliver fewer stories in favor of greater mood and depth. He remains a remarkably keen observer of a world gone
mad, of the average guy in extraordinary circumstances. Surreal work from a rare, enigmatic talent.
THE COLORADO DAILY - David Kirby
****1/2 (out of five)
Stan Ridgway spins grimy tales about D students on collision courses with their tragi-comic destinies. he brings a storyteller's eye for detail and a charactor actor's gift for method delivery to these anti-fables and manages to imbue them with richness and life without stooping to condescension or moralizing.
His Johnny Cash tribute, "Luthor Played Guitar," a simple two-step country ballad, recalls chump change gigs and marquee-lights glory, and his trademark goddess-from-nowhere archetypes songs, "Stranded" and "As I Went Out One
Morning" (a Dylan cover), are both classic Ridgway studies in surrender and redemption. Both are typically goofy spun in Ridgway's epic-struggle vividness.
This guy is the harry Dean Stanton of rock, weird and prophetic, seer of visions and teller of tales, and the quiet kid in the corner drawing funny pictures in the margins. Unearthly.
OPTION MAGAZINE - Rafer Guzman
Ex-Wall of Voodoo singer Stanard Ridgway had his 15 minutes in 1985 with his first solo album The Big Heat, a
delightful collection of quirky pulp fiction stories set to moody synth-pop. Most considered his kitschy shtick limited, but
Ridgway has been recording ever since, and Black Diamond proves him a seriously intelligent songwriter of surprising
depth. Like comic artist Daniel Clowes, Ridgway uses a pop-culture framework to sketch humourous yet emotionally
painful pictures of losers and wanderers."Down the Coast Highway" tells the tale of a lonely drifter. "Stranded" is a
haunting ode to a femme fatale; "Crystal Palace", the lament of a deluded dreamer, is nothing short of a modest
masterpiece. Ridgway has toned down his wise-ass delivery (though the country ballad about O.S.S. founder "Wild Bill
Donovan" is classic Ridgway weirdness), allowing for some moments of true pathos. He's also developed a real talent for
creating spooky, atmosphereic melodies. An effective blend of Johnny Cash's morbidity, Bob Dylan's absurdist humour
and Jim Thomspon's bleak outlook, Black Diamond ought to earn Ridgway some new fans.
THE LOS ANGELES READER - Richard Foss
Stan Ridgway is the most distinctive of chameleons - he shifts personas and viewpoints from song to song, then delivers
each one in the same immediately recognizable vocal style. Black Diamond is his best album in years, and it hits extremes
of both detachmnet and passion that make it a career milestone. The opener, "Big Dumb Town," is Ridgway the cynic from
the first line - "When the city was in flames you were on the phone, sellin' firehoses at a premium loan." This devastating
portrait of a doomed opportunist ends and an utterly different tune begins - the meditative, mournful and affecting tribute to
Kurt Cobain, "Gone the Distance." Throughout the album, Ridgway breaks barriers and experiments with styles, veering
from hard-edged tracks reminiscent of his work with Wall of Voodoo to a credible country blues vocal on a number
dedicated to Johnny Cash. Among the facinating eccentrics, losers, and loners who populate his projects, we're getting a
better look at a really interesting character - an intriguing artist named Stan Ridgway.
SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE - John Layman
Flying both solo and with band, Ridgway is soaring to new heights.
Stan Ridgway fans, rejoice. After nearly four years without a major release, Ridgway made up for his absence last spring
with the release of "Work the Dumb Oracle", the debut album of his new band, Drywall. And last month, the former leader
of Wall of Voodoo uncorked his fourth solo album, "Black Diamond."
It's been a good 12 months for Stan Ridgway.
Ridgway, who will perform at the Belly-Up tavern in Solana Beach tonight, is still best known as the lead singer and
founder of the '80s new-wave art-rock band Wall of Voodoo, "Mexican Radio," Voodoo's hit on radio and video, earned
Ridgway a sort of alternative immortality.
But more than ten years have passed since Ridgway parted company with the band, and in that time, Ridgway has proved to
be unique, intriguing and innovative as a soloist as he was with a band.
Now he's doing both.
"My first idea for Drywall was to make something completely different than what I was doing as a solo artist," Ridgway
said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. "Quite frankly, I was burned out on being a solo artist. The whole focus of it
had become so solipsistic, I felt I really needed a fresh perspective, and a lot of the things that had been lying there for a
while in my head I could do with Drywall."
What was lying in his head was not pretty.
Ridgway teamed up with keyboardist/vocalist Pietra Wexstun of Hecate's Angels and percussionist Ivan Knight to release
its first "document," a bleak, cynical electro-nightmare reminiscent of Wall fo Voodoo's first full-length album "Dark
Continent," only darker.
"There are three people in Drywall," Ridgway explained, "and there are going to be three Drywall records. We'll be
attempting to document events worldwide -- psychic, paranormal, reality-based, and otherwise -- as we move to the year
"Each Drywall document will be followed by a 30-minute film and after the film, there will be a soundtrack record of music
specifically scored for the Drywall movie."
Expect the movie, "The Drywall Incident" and its score "Incidental Soundtrack" fo be released later in the year.
"Stan Ridgway is equal parts Raymond Chandler and John Huston, Rod Serling and Johnny Cash. Haunted by America's
pulp serial past, Ridgway has become his own wireless theater, with a cast of thousands at his fingertips and a wealth of
tales in his head. A rare and famous talent."
"BLACK DIAMOND'S fast moving novellas are full of dense musical imagery, peopled with characters from a human
highway 61 revisited."
NEW YORK PRESS - J.R. Taylor
"From track to track, Ridgway's BLACK DIAMOND handles pop, country, and folk as gracefully as Bobby Darin but
always leaves little bits of himself hanging from the sharp edges. It's melodic, gorgeous, sad and personal and adds up to a
REINVENTING ROCKER RIDGWAY - By Fred Schuster, Daily News Music Writer
Ex-Wall of Voodoo singer Stan Ridgway, perhaps best known for his sardonic vocals on the old MTV staple "Mexican
Radio," doesn't consider himself a musician above all. "I see myself as an inventor, a surrealist at the end of the day," he
said. "I'm more interested in miniature models than practically anything else. I have no secret plan for world domination.
I'm just building my own little empire of the ants."
In years past, Ridgway may not have been on the verge of mainstream adulation, but he was known widely in the rock
world. As leader of Wall of Voodoo, a witty and pioneering early-'80s techno-rock band famous for confrontational live
shows, Ridgway made the superb "Call of the West" album, containing the aforementioned "Mexican Radio."
After leaving the band in 1983, Ridgway built his own recording studio in Hollywood and began churning out solo albums
for I.R.S. and Geffen. Drawing on a Raymond Chandler-inspired netherworld of noir Los Angeles, Ridgway wrote songs
about misfits and lowlifes, double-crossing dames and down-at-the-heels cabbies.
Just released is Ridgway's fourth solo album, the engaging "Black Diamond" (Birdcage), which he describes as "the most
personal record I've made so far, at the risk of sounding like some wounded folkie. I'd call it a song cycle for dreamers and
schemers." Among the tracks on "Black Diamond" is "Gone the Distance," a solo acoustic number that deals with the last
days of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. "I wish I could have been the rock'n'roll doctor that walked into the room before he ended
his life," Ridgway, 41, said from his home in Venice. "I wish I could have been there to say, 'Fire those people! Quit the
business! Any artist who had any amount of success in the music industry could have communicated with Kurt. The act
was senseless and completely unnecessary. Suicide is always the last card you play."
Ridgway's pulp lyrics and sarcastic vocal delivery are much in evidence on the new album, which he said was inspired by
"insecurity, lonliness, bitterness, success, failure and of course, the Big Three: Anger, Love and Loss."
In the years since Wall of Voodoo, Ridgway has contributed tracks to several high-profile projects. He appeared on Hal
Wilner's "Lost in the Stars" tribute to Kurt Weil, and added the standout track "Don't Box Me In" to the "Rumble Fish"
"Keep your head down and try not to look at the scoreboard, as Norman Mailer once wrote," said Ridgway, who grew up in
the San Gabriel Valley. "History has a way of rolling over all of us in the end."
Recalling the making of the colorful "Mexican Radio" video, which still turns up on MTV, Ridgway tells of trying to
convince his then-record label to shell out some money and shoot the thing. "I knew MTV was new and needed videos," he
said. "So, I went to the label and they didn't want to give us a dollar to make one. Finally we shot the whole thing in
somebody's office. And when MTV got a hold of it, they played it to death."
Ridgway, who said he recently rode his bike to El Segundo, where he spent the afternoon watching planes take off from the
airport, said he still finds inspiration in LA, even though, he admitted, "I hate it sometimes, like everyone else does." He
continued: "I live part of my time in an imaginary bygone era. And I have to keep reminding myself that things today aren't
really the way they were."