i'm not gonna be timid like a bunch of people are when they talk about Ryan...
He IS the best American songwriter since Bob Dylan. Many other people say that he may be, he will be, or he is close to. Fuck that.
i think there are a few conditions - most of which one must meet to be considered a great singer/songwriter:
- must pay their dues - prior to Whiskeytown, Ryan helped form a couple different bands (Blank Label, Lazy Stars, Space Madness, The Patty Duke Syndrome) and is no stranger to smoky bar gigs, long road stretches, or heckling fans.
- must be prolific - how's 9 full-length albums in 7 years (12 in 11 years if you count Whiskeytown's releases). Not to mention numerous EP's, and at least six albums-worth of material that never made it to a release (yet).
- must have a (somewhat) troubled life - Ryan, in his new found sobriety, is not ashamed to talk about his past drug and alcohol addictions, and how they almost ended his life/career on numerous occasions. Moreover, these addictions, plus failed relationships, and even deceased lovers are almost essential in forming the mindset that fuels great songwriting.
- must live in New York City at some point - ok, so this isn't required, but from a songwriting standpoint (and from the sheer amount of songs the city inspires), it sure helps.
- must be respected by peers - there's no doubt that any kid with a guitar (and any sense of musical taste) at one point has looked to Ryan as a musical role model. But to have people the caliber of Elton John and Steven King as fans and personal friends proves his validity.
- must be hated/criticized by peers - whether its - bad reviews, show-goers shouting obscenities from the audience (ranging from requesting 'Summer of '69' to 'turn the lights up'), or journalists saying he's "too prolific" (wtf), a "spoiled brat", or that he "hates his fans" - people are always going to find ways to detract what Ryan does.
(as long as we're making Dylan comparisons, see if you can't apply all those conditions to Bobby D as well)
If you don't own every one of Ryan's albums, STOP what you're doing right now and go get 'em. If you can only afford a couple, start with Heartbreaker, Gold, and Cold Roses. But if you wanna get a real RA education, start with Whiskeytown's stuff:
Ryan, along with violinist Caitlin Cary and a revolving cast of others put out two official albums (Faithless Street & Stranger's Almanac) as Whiskeytown - a (now) critically acclaimed pioneering band in the Alt-Country scene of the 90's. After the success of Ryan's first solo album, Heartbreaker, Lost Highway signed Ryan and picked up Whiskeytown's unreleased 3rd album Pneumonia. The major release of this more-polished material brought Whiskeytown the notoriety they deserved.
* i have to credit AnsweringBell.com for a lot of this info
With that said, i can begin my mulit-post Ryan Adams Artist Spotlight.
i can't say that there is any strict form i will adhere to, or how often i'll get installments out, but i can promise one thing: no tracks posted will be from any of Ryan's officially released material. There is so much cool unreleased stuff of his out there that it would be a crime just to focus on the stuff you can find at a record store. So mp3's will either be unreleased studio cuts, or live tracks.
Because i want to jump right into my Heartbreaker review (and because i don't have a lot of bootleg Whiskeytown material) here are just a few goodies:
mp3: Whiskeytown - A Song For You ~ from Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons (1999)
mp3:Whiskeytown - Picture of Jesus on the Dashboard ~ from The Freightwhaler Sessions
mp3:Whiskeytown - New York Angel ~ from Those Weren't The Days
On a related note (and as mentioned here), the reissue of Whiskeytown's Stranger's Almanac came out today. i couldn't find it at Hasting's or Best Buy (although they have in their catalog), so i ordered it through Amazon ($5 cheaper than Best Buy anyway)