We were in London recently to visit my sister and, during our rambles, I rescued this record from an over-crammed shop. Now, I tend to go back and forth with whether or not I like Ryan Adams’ music. I’ve heard most of his albums by now, and even some of the EPs and singles of stuff he’s seen fit to pour onto the market like a flood these past few years. I like a lot of it, but sometimes, man…
For example, he had that whole Rock ‘N Roll thing, where nothing seemed (to me) to be sounding quite right. Demolition was largely like that for me, too, as though he was trying too hard and not quite getting what he wanted. But I still love most of Gold, and even more so do I love Heartbreaker. And, having played it more than once now, I really like Easy Tiger. A lot.
Adams’ songs are musically solid. Bedrock, in fact. The Cardinals are frighteningly capable musicians too, which brings great weight to the party. The understated background flourishes of pedal steel, slide, piano or whatever they choose are completely pleasing.
I like that Adams likes the acoustic guitar (it suits him), and his plaintive voice usually matches the mood he sets perfectly. He’s a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll and, when he hits the nail on the head, a whole lot of great song-writing in the grand old style.
The only track that threw me on this record was the first one, Goodnight Rose. It’s a nice enough song, but I had to double-check the case and the label on the disc to make sure I’d inserted the correct album, the first time I played it. The vocals don’t sound like him at all, but more like a slightly-stoned John Hiatt. Hm.
But after that initial jolt, there’s a very, very comfortable groove that’s found. While he might get a little bit rockier (e.g. Halloweenhead), the majority of the tracks sound like a lazy Sunday afternoon on the creaky back porch, looking out at the haze of the summer heat and wishing Monday would never come. Pearls On A String takes it one step further, sounding like it could’ve come straight off the O Brother soundtrack. And so on. Lots of great stuff here, for those quieter moments in your day.
Sheryl Crow is on here somewhere; I didn’t hear her voice, but she’s credited so she must’ve sat in with the band. And there’s a picture in the booklet of Henry Rollins and Adams comparing tats, but no Hank on the record (that I could tell), nor in the credits. So, at a guess, perhaps the pic comes from when Rollins was putting together the Rise Above benefit CD for the West Memphis Three a few years back (Adams contributed a very personalized version of Nervous Breakdown to that project, as you all know well). Cool.
A ringing endorsement of this album from Stephen King is definitely interesting, and the fact that Adams is wearing a digital calculator watch in the cover picture cracks me up a whole lot. Man, I haven’t seen one of those things since 1985 or so. Aren’t you glad I notice all of the little things?
In sum, this is a really really good record. If you ever find yourself standing in a record shop, wondering which of his efforts to try, you really won’t go wrong with this one. Recommended.
01 Goodnight Rose
03 Everybody Knows
05 Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.
06 Tears Of Gold
07 The Sun Also Sets
08 Off Broadway
09 Pearls On A String
10 Rip Off
11 Two Hearts
12 These Girls
13 I Taught Myself How To Grow Old