When I first heard Ryan Adams, he was the faceless voice on a record my brother bought me for my fifteenth birthday. Love is Hell was an album I’d return to whenever I was down, which was often: I was fifteen. It became a little world I could disappear into with my melancholy. Written whilst in residence at the Chelsea Hotel, it is a world of a dreary and wet New York. It’s waking up alone at midday on a rainy Sunday; it’s the record playing in the back of your head when you’re at a bar with friends and you want to go home; it’s seeing the blurry silver city lights through the streaked window of a taxi in the early hours. It beckons you to leave your bed and join the miserable masses out on the street; it’s smoking on a balcony with someone, wishing that they would hold you.
For some reason, it took me five years to search out Adams’ other records. But, in the summer of 2010, I bought Heartbreaker. At first it was a little too country for my taste, but, after repeated listens it revealed itself to be an irreproachable example of what Adams’ future albums would be: beautiful stories of a man who is young, sad and often high. He wishes for forgiveness and love, for home, and sometimes just a good night out. By sharing his heartbreak, Adams invites the listener to share their own, and it is in this way that his records become like old friends.
It isn’t always, though, an easy friendship and Adams is not a faceless voice to most in the music community. Like any true rock star, he has a complicated relationship with the press and his fans. His antics have proliferated a ‘punk rock bad boy’ image, which provides an interesting contrast to his singer songwriter status, and makes it easy to compare him to Bob Dylan. He is known for being eccentric and tempestuous, and has often lashed out at fans and critics alike, even days before Christmas!
He has been an active member of online communities for years; he often posted under a pseudonym on a fan forum, and had a rocky relationship with his now defunct Tumblr account. These days, he carries on the same relationship with both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, occasionally deleting all content, disappearing and then returning to fans’ delight.
Despite his public persona, Adams has firmly cemented his reputation as a prolific artist releasing seven solo, and six group albums (with bands Whiskeytown and The Cardinals), in ten or so turbulent years. Settling down in 2009 Adams announced his “retirement” from music and married on and off girlfriend, singer/actress Mandy Moore. He maintained an online presence until late 2010, when after releasing a double album of previously unreleased material from the Easy Tiger sessions, his tiny record label PAX AM received complaints as a few disgruntled fans didn't get their records when promised. This bump in the road caused an ever easy to overreact Adams to delete the content of his Twitter and Facebook accounts.
However, in recent weeks he has quietly resurfaced to announce a solo acoustic European and UK tour for summer 2011. Ticket information can be found by clicking here.
Playing old classics, and new (so far) unreleased songs, seeing this modern day troubadour shouldn't be missed. Ryan Adams is ‘a talented breeze that will blow off your hat with a sneer’.
My favourite Ryan Adams records:
Adam’s highly acclaimed debut solo album.
Key songs: Come Pick Me Up, Oh My Sweet Carolina, Shakedown on 9th Street
The album that brought Adams to the masses.
Key songs: New York, New York, La Cienega Just Smiled, Harder Now That It’s Over
A collection of songs compiled by Adams’ record company, Lost Highway, from three unreleased albums. Adams has stated that he is not happy with this album and its broken up nature.
Key Songs: Desire, Starting to Hurt, Dear Chicago
Love is Hell (2004)
Arguably Adams’ best work. Lauded by critics, it came close to staying in the (expansive) Adams vault, as Lost Highway considered it to be commercially unappealing. The older, sadder and more severe brother to Heartbreaker.
Key Songs: This House is Not For Sale, The Shadowlands, Please Do Not Let Me Go
Cardinals III/IV (w/The Cardinals) (2010)
A double album compiled of unreleased songs from the Easy Tiger sessions. Note the happier tunes.
Key Songs: Wasteland, Gracie, Kill The Lights
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