Will Oldham and Elisa Ambrogio embark on audiobook tour, with music by Ben Chasny to keep everyone awake

Will Oldham and Elisa Ambrogio embark on audiobook tour, with music by Ben Chasny to keep everyone awake

Time to start sporting your most fashionable bifocals, illiterate music fans, because come April you’ll likely be shuffling back and forth to some heady literary audio! Spurred on by fellow labelmate Bill Callahan’s recent string of tourdates where he swapped a guitar for a well-worn copy of Letters to Emma Bowlcut, Will Oldham (a.k.a. belly-jiggling Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) and Elisa Ambrogio (a.k.a. the sturm und drang of Magik Markers) are pairing up for a series of live readings along the East Coast. Why no guitars/drums/git fiddles on these dates? Because Oldham has a rather unusual release to celebrate, that’s why.

On April 19, Drag City will release their very first audiobook — a five-CD, six-and-a-half-hour version of Rudolph Wurlitzer’s 1984 novel Slow Fade, read by Oldham with some help from D.V. DeVincentis. (I just looked up who D.V. DeVincentis is, and apparently he was a “Vampire Underling” in Blade. Sounds like he’s got the goods.) The mini-tour promoting the book will commence a week later in Brookline, Massachusetts, and wrap up soon after in the Big Apple. Joining Oldham and Ambrogio on these dates is Ben Chasny (of Six Organs of Admittance and Rangda and August Born and Badgerlore and Comets on Fire and Basalt Fingers and 200 Years) and he’s BRINGING HIS GUITAR!!! [thunderous applause]

Now let’s say you attend one of these shows and find yourself caught up in Wurlitzer’s story but don’t want to listen to Will Oldham speak at you for over six hours. Per usual, Drag City has a solution: wait patiently in your armchair until June 21, when Slow Fade is re-released as an actual novel! Then you can even record yourself reading the novel, and put out a rival audiobook on your own label!!

For those wondering about this mysterious author and book, let’s whet your appetite with a few fun facts. Rudolph Wurlitzer’s first novel — 1969’s Nog — was met with acclaim by Thomas effing Pynchon. Damn. Wurlitzer has also written some classic screenplays, such as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Two-Lane Blacktop. An unproduced screenplay titled Zebulon was the main inspiration for Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, a.k.a. the greatest film of all time. As for Slow Fade, here’s a nugget from Jonathan Rosenbaum:

The story alternates between [Wesley] Hardin in Santa Fe, Mexico, and New York — shooting a last-stand Western until the producer blows the whistle and shuts off the funds, generating a cinéma vérité chronicle of his own life — and A.D. and Walker writing their script on the road, so that each movement in the present is complemented by an additional piece of the past uncovered. Apart from generating a respectable amount of plot suspense, this narrative counterpoint allows Wurlitzer to pursue a satirical bent as he charts both fantasy trips, which becomes a contrast between the spiritual excesses of two generations: Yosemite Sam and Mr. Natural, each on a suicide mission.

There’s only one remaining question: can Slow Fade possibly reach the same literary heights as Neil Hagerty’s Victory Chimp? I think not.

Readings (and music):

04.26.11 - Brookline, MA - The Coolidge Corner
04.27.11 - Montague, MA - Montague Bookmill
04.28.11 - Hudson, NY - Basilica
04.29.11 - Brooklyn, NY - Spoonbill and Sugartown Booksellers (afternoon)
04.29.11 - New York, NY - Anthology Film Archives (evening)

• Rudolph Wurlitzer: http://www.dragcity.com/artists/rudolph-wurlitzer
• Will Oldham: http://www.bonnieprincebilly.com
• Magik Markers: http://arbitrarysigns.blogspot.com
• Ben Chasny: http://www.sixorgans.com
• Drag City: http://www.dragcity.com

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