It's been raining that Tennessee honey

Ryan Adams is a drunk, junkie, miscreant and misanthrope. He is belligerent. He has picked public fights with Jeff Tweedy and Jack White for no discernible reason. He has dated Winona Ryder and Parker Posey (for discernible reasons) amongst other starlets and society notables.

He is not Bryan Adams, and will throw (substantial, heavy) things at audience members who request that he sing "Summer of '69" at his concerts.

He is probably best known for releasing a completely inadvertent music video tribute to New York featuring the Twin Towers filmed in early September, 2001. Apart from that, his cover of Oasis's Wonderwall made it on to the O.C., which may or may not be something depending on the circles in which you hang.

If you are a critic (which I am not) and write something about Ryan Adams that Ryan Adams does not like, there is a non-negligible chance that he will flip out and leave an obscenity-laden message on your answering machine.

Ryan Adams is a rock star who happens to also be an alt-country star.

He writes songs and sings like Neil Young or Jeff Buckley or Roy Orbison or Bob Dylan or Tom Petty (let's just say the majority of the Wilburys) or the Grateful Dead or Bruce Springsteen or Uncle Tupelo (well, Son Volt, because Ryan Adams is a lot better songwriter than Jeff Tweedy is) or any number of other musicians whom I am too lame to recognize. The thing is, he does this very well.

I think I remember Alice talking about Adams's old band, Whiskeytown, back in college. And then I definitely know Adam tried to get me to listen to his solo(ish) Cold Roses a few months ago, based on the strength of a few songs he liked that he heard on Launchcast. (Adam is a big Launchcast junkie.) It wasn't until I took close to a hundred Ryan Adams songs from Sheryl's iPod at her urging that I really got into him, though.

Ryan Adams released three albums in 2005: the aforementioned Cold Roses (which was a double album, for Chrissakes), Jacksonville City Nights, and, a few weeks ago, 29. I like much of 29, haven't listened to all of Jacksonville City Nights, and I think that Cold Roses is the best (double) album of 2005. (Spoon's Gimme Fiction comes in a close second, and then maybe Kathleen Edward's Back to Me. The White Stripes and Beck albums were good, but don't count for obvious reasons.)

I highly recommend Cold Roses to anyone who has even the slightest tolerance for something somewhat countryish. Even more countryish, and perhaps better, is Ryan Adams's first solo album, Heartbreaker. He's released, ummm, three or four other albums in the 5 years between Heartbreaker and Cold Roses and there's plenty of wonderful music on those albums as well.

Comments

  1. I think the only way an artist can effectively sing a love song without coming across as dopey is to do so with a twang and a tumbleweed feel. Anyone Damien Rice-esque (Coldplay comes to mind) is usually a bit cheeseball. Pop music (from Elton John to the Beatles)is supergreat, but it's either overproduced and has too much sheen or is crazily happy like rainbow candy. Swooping rock love (say the Smashing Pumpkins) is too gritty. It rocks, and can touch you, but with tooooons of energy.

    Ryan Adams sings faux country-boy love (well, he's from North Carolina, but wrote all of his songs in the East Village) that's sweet-yet-dusty, touching and sad and slow...yet makes you so very happy. He is so good, musically and lyrically. Too bad he's really an ass in person. Whoever knew cowboys could sing it best?

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  2. Ryan Adams and Gillian Welch do a transcendent cover of Radiohead's "Black Star"--a mean feat, since the original is so good. I don't think it's available on CD.

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  3. Also, I was a co-lyricist for an alt-country not-so-supergroup inspired by Ryan Adams. We were called Iago's Motivation. We lasted exactly one night. We performed a benefit concert in some park in Red Hook for my friend Christine's departure for grad school at Northwestern. Our big song was titled, "What the Fuck's in Illinois?" Take that, Sufjan Stevens.

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