"It is veneer, rouge, aestheticism, art museums, new theaters, etc. that make America impotent. The good things are football, kindness, and jazz bands."
Ryan Adams has always been an enigma for me. To start, I’ve seen probably a dozen pictures of him, and I’m still not sure I have any idea what he looks like. That confusion seems to spill over into his music, as well. It’s pretty hard to reconcile something like “The End”:
…with an image like this one:
Although maybe not. The country part seems to be a genetic structure, which he’s clearly a natural at using. The anger and energy is something different, though, and probably what makes him worth paying attention to over the army of other members of the MTV generation that learned how to put dust bowl chord progressions together.
He and The Cardinals crush it on Jacksonville City Nights the old fashion way, but then “Love Is Hell” sounds like something off the Can’t Hardly Wait soundtrack, only six years too late.
And yet I don’t know if I own anything as semi-modern as Heartbreaker that holds up so well with age. He initially pulls my subconscious with that almost-Highway 61 Revisited sound to open track one, and then songwrites to glory with one of my favorite all time songs, “Sweet Carolina”, with bonus points for the Cleveland reference:
And this is all on top of “Come Pick Me Up” being one of the better modern breakup songs you’ve heard a very long time. It mixes and matches like this for fifteen tracks.
And yet, take a commercial hit like Ashes & Fire, ballady, sure, but incredibly lacking in all the inspiring ways that make Heartbreaker so alluring. He’s been doing this for twelve years now, making it hard to preorder anything and, at the same time, put down the stuff that overcomes.