Sunday, March 30, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Speaking of lyrics - upon my in-depth listening sessions in preparation for this post, i was once again - but also more than ever - blown away by his words. It seems interesting to me that a (solo) debut from an artist can be their most lyrically profound album. Now, i know not everyone will agree with me there, but that's the beauty to music - it affects everyone differently. While i do think Ryan has grown and improved with each album, you have to admit that his debut, although not commercially successful, remains one of his best. Plus, its a little odd to do a back-review of an album having heard 8 years of the artist's more recent work, so i tried not to compare it with anything else of his and take it for what it is: a masterpiece.
So, that said, i've decided to review this album track-by-track with some live/unreleased versions of the songs. i tried to find live versions from around 2000 so they would be solo acoustics and not have been Cardinal-ified (not that that's a bad thing). i've also highlighted a line or two from each song that left me stunned:
1. Argument with David Rawlings Concerning Morrissey
While this track, which is exactly what it is titled, isn't very important to the album itself, it does give you an idea for the mood in the studio. i really enjoy when we get that sneak peak into some of the recording process. Plus, it often shows that the artists are really in there recording what they are playing and not just recording each track (track here meaning each instrument or piece of music/vocals) separately. I posted a song here that is another great example of this.
Helping Ryan on this disc was producer and multi-instrumentalist Ethan Johns and the dynamic duo of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. I could try to explain the studio process and the concepts for the album, by Ryan does it pretty well here:
mp3: Interview (1) on World Cafe - Philadelphia, PA - 9/28/00
2. mp3: To Be Young (Is to be Sad, Is to be High)
(from the World Cafe Interview)
i can't quite remember, but this song may have been the first time i heard Ryan. It was on the soundtrack to Old School and plays at the start of the movie. This is one of those more up-beat tracks on the album, and i love the fact the he begins with this one - as if to fool the listener into thinking they know what's to come.
The World Cafe Interview is one Ryan did just a few days after the album was released. There are some good, stripped down tracks and some interesting interview material. You can get the whole thing here.
No specific lyrics i wanna highlight, but in one of the interview tracks, Ryan is asked how the bridge came about in the song (if he took it from another song or something) beacuse it "comes out of nowhere". Ryan's response is simply "It's the one i thought should be in there". Nice.
3. mp3: My Winding Wheel
(from the World Cafe Interview)
I couldn't find it anywhere, but i've heard a clip of Ryan talking about his first encounter with Bobby D at a dinner at Elton John's house. Bob's one question to Ryan was, "so what the fuck is a winding wheel?"
Great guitar work on this version.
"precious little thing, with eyes that dance around without their clothes"
4. mp3: Amy
(from World Cafe Interview)
Although i don't know much about the real Amy, she definitely was/is a huge influence on Ryan. This tune exemplifies one my favorite subtle techniques - where the fingerpicking on the guitar follows the melody of the song. Ryan's a pro at this. Another good example is the bonus track on JCN, What Sin Replaces Love. Obviously not present on this acoustic version, one of my favorite parts on the album version of Amy is when that booming bass drum kicks in. It just adds to the already haunting quality of the song.
"i go to the places where we used to. i feel sad."
5. mp3: Oh My Sweet Carolina
(from Live at the KB - Malmo, Sweden - 11/6/00)
Wow. What a song. It's one of many tunes inspired by/written about Ryan's homeland of North Carolina. If you can get Emmylou Harris to sing on your debut album, you doing something right. One of the most sought-after backing vocalist/duet partner in the Americana scene, Emmylou has this angelic quality to her voice that transforms any song she touches. I think i might have to do a whole post on Emmylou's vocal additions to some of my favorite artists.
"up here in the city, feels like things are closing in. the sunset's just my lightbulb burning out"
"building newsprint boats, i raced to sewer mains"
6. mp3: Bartering Lines
(from The Destoyer Sessions)
The Destroyer Session is one of Ryan's unreleased albums that we will hopefully get in a box set soon (no news on the release of this sometime last year). Somewhere, though, i got a hold of this collection. The session was recorded with Gillian and Dave just a few days before Heartbreaker at Pilot Recording Studios in NYC . The session included some very cool still unreleased material (one of my all-time favorite tunes Poison & The Pain) as well as some tracks, like this one, that made the cut on subsequent albums. They did some real cool electric stuff with this song.
"leave it on the table, to somebody else the money's got a use"
7. mp3: Call Me on Your Way Back Home
(from Live at the Boardwalk - Sheffield, UK - 11/18/00)
On the studio version, the song breaks wide open after the second chorus with a string section as Ryan rips up the harmonica. This version from an awesome show in the UK obviously has no string section, but the harmonica is just as sorrowful.
"honey, i aint nothin' new"
"i was just a kid, bubble gum on my shoe"
8. mp3: Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)
(from Live at the Boardwalk)
If you listen to the banter at the end of the last track, you'll learn that Ryan (at least he claims) wrote Damn, Sam a couple hours before playing that show in Sheffield. Not bad for curing some backstage boredom. I could almost highlight every line from this song, but here are the few that got me thinkin':
"i'm calm as a fruit stand in new york, and maybe as strange"
"i'm as open as a door in her house that leads to her room"
"clear as a bell, and sound as an old engineer" - then he repeats the line as if to say, 'yeah, that's what i said. badass, huh?'
9. mp3: Come Pick Me Up
(from unknown live show)
i don't remember where i picked this track up, but most likely off Archive.org. Ryan says he wrote it the same day the recording was made. It's always interesting to see how artists transform and alter songs before they make it to an album.
Come Pick Me Up hits on an interesting topic for me. Often, i start to dislike songs that get too much attention or are overplayed - these are usually the first couple songs that i hear from an artist. As this song seemed to be one his most popular tunes off Heartbreaker, this was the case. In much the same way that bands fear "selling out" by becoming too popular, the same phenomenon can happen to a song. The truth is, however, that this track is badass. I realized this when listening to this live version; the crowd reacts to the song naturally (it's the first time they've heard it) and not with any preconceived notions as to what the song is - It's just Ryan telling a true story as literally as possible.
"i wrote this today. it probably sucks."
"try it [her bed] for sleepin' instead, maybe you'll rest sometime" - slut.
10. mp3: To Be The One
(from Live at the Exit/In - Nashville, TN - 10/28/99)
A pretty simple tune - at least dynamically - Ryan, his guitar and harmonica. But Ryan proves, once again, that sometimes simple is good. Real good. To me, this song sounds like a drunken confessional.
"while the things I do kill me, they just tell me to relax."
"the empty bottle, it misses you. but i'm the one it's talkin' to."
11. mp3: Why Do They Leave?
(from Live at Stubb's - Austin, TX - 3-16-00)
Probably the heartbreaking-est tune on the album.
Both on this live version and in the studio Ryan has Kim Richey backing him up on vocals. Download this whole show - you get some good stuff from Heartbreaker, some Whiskeytown, plus a couple super bonus finds:
- A (really) early version of Don't Fail Me Now. A song that didn't make an album until JCN - 5 years later.
- Allegedly 1 of 2 known performances of Goodbye, Honey - one of Ryan's rarest (and best) bonus tracks.
"simple cards and things. rose colored sunsets, no flowers from me."
12. mp3: Shakedown on 9th Street
(from Live at the Horseshoe Tavern - Toronto, ON - 9/26/00)
In the midst of all this sadness comes an electrified, groovin' rock tune. Somehow, under all that i guess it could be sad - i'm pretty sure Lucy dies, so.... The part of Lucy is played (sung) by Gillian Welch on the album cut.
It was kinda hard to find an acoustic version of this - The Cardinals play it all the time, however. Ryan does his best to imitate Gillan on this version.
"someone's gonna get it, ain't gonna be me"
"i was just gonna hit him but i'm gonna kill him now"
13. mp3: Don't Ask For The Water
(from Exile on Franklin Street)
Definitely one of my favorite obscure tunes from Ryan - by that i mean one that your casual RA fan wouldn't even remember. Simple but piercing lyrics set to meandering fingerpicking. One of a few tracks on this album that seethes with, not hate, but simply contempt toward a past lover.
Exile on Franklin Street is another one of those unreleased/unofficial albums. Recorded on a 4-track in early 2000 and produced by Van Alston, Ryan plays all the instruments on it (minus the string section, i'm guessing) - drums too (that's what he started out doing, you know?) He really took this song to another place on this version.
"down here in the sewer, i'm smellin' a rat"
"and what horses we rode, through what somber fields. with our lovers at war, and the dust on our heels."
"and her weapon of choice is a red-patterned dress"
14. mp3: In My Time of Need
(from The Destroyer Sessions)
The album cut starts with the creak of a chair as Ryan respositions himself and clams that "sitting on [his] foot is weird." Little things like this are what make albums cool. They're obviously not overproduced or constantly being over-dubbed - just the artists trying out a couple takes and using the best one. That's how albums are supposed to be recorded.
The song is loosely based on Ryan's interpretation of the life of an old man he met while recording an album in upstate New York (you can read all about it at AnsweringBell). From the sincerity and age-old wisdom in the lyrics, for a minute you believe that Ryan is like 78. This song was one of the first that made aware of the songwriting genius of Ryan Adams.
"work these hands to bleed, cause i got mouths to feed. and i got fifteen dollars hid above the stove."
"these old bones are worn. i've grown tiresome. and i know my time is surely gonna come."
15. mp3: Sweet Lil' Gal (23rd/1st)
(from Live at the Mountain Stage - Charleston, SC - 10/8/00)
A true piano ballad to top off this masterwork. Some thought definitely went into the track order and flow of this disc to make it a true, 2-sided album.
I actually like this live version better than the one on Heartbreaker. Superb vocals and i feel like you can hear the emotion come through a little better.
"steals my shirt, makes me hurt"
"steals my shirt, 23rd & 1st"
Buy Heartbreaker here (iTunes) or here (Amazon). Or better yet, get the real thing (vinyl) here (musicdirect).
first installment of my multi-post Ryan Adams Artist Spotlight
Be sure to check out the
Monday, March 17, 2008
Okay, i'm not really - i procrastinate with the best of 'em - but i'm trying to talk myself into becoming a good student. Just for like the next 2 months. Then no more school. Ever.
i know it's been a while since my last post, but i've just had no time. The plan was to catch up on school work during Spring Break, but Vegas and a few days back home totally nullified any chances of that happening. This week i've got 2 (late) midterms and then there's that online class i haven't done anything for. I told myself that whenever i feel like blog-browsing or writing a post i will work on the online class instead. So if my post frequency slows in the coming weeks, you know why. The only reason i feel like i can get this posted tonight is because i'm tired of studying and... oh yeah, i'm nocturnal. Seriously.
But i promise to get the next installment (Heartbreaker) of my Ryan Adams posts out as soon as i feel caught-up.
You know the drill - topic apropos songs:
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Just booked a last minute Spring Break trip to Vegas, Baby! Those spur of the moment trips (i'm leavin' in the morning) decided on a whim always make for the best time. Gonna be there for 3 days, 2 nights. Probably won't get any posts made while i'm there - i'll be busy blowin' all my savings, instead. Here's a list of songs i threw together real quick that fit the times:
mp3: Ryan Adams & Elton John - Oooh Las Vegas (live) ~ from Ryan & Elton Live @ The Grand Old Opry (2/4/02)
mp3: Bob Dylan - Rambler, Gambler (early home recording) ~ from No Direction Home: The Soundtrack
mp3: The White Stripes - Black Jack Davey ~ from Seven Nation Army [Single] (2003)
mp3: Mike McClure - Jack of Diamonds/Queen of Hearts ~ unreleased studio cut
Friday, March 7, 2008
i went to Austin on Wednesday to hang out, and happened to catch James McMurtry at the Continental Club on Congress. Cool little bar that specializes in Live Austin Music.
James is a groove-makin' master. The initial guitar strum at the start of each song immediately envokes a little foot-tappin'. He writes REAL songs from a cynical standpoint, but somehow, a little hope peeks through in his lyrics. He's got a three-piece band (drums and bass) that rocks. I love seeing three-pieces because no element in the band is uncessesary or wasted. Their drummers seem to always have a little more attitude as they often carry a lot of the song. The lyrics always seem a little more important when there isn't a mess of guitar drowning 'em out.
McMurty doin a little Sister Twistin'
"Ruth Ann and Lynn they wear them cut off britches and those
skinny little haltersAnd they're second cousins to me.Man I don't care I want to get between 'emWith a great big ol' hard on like a old bois d' arc fence postYou could hang a pipe rail gate from.Do some sister twisters 'til the cows come home.And we'd be havin' us a time."from Choctaw Bingo
one more thing - James mentioned that they're almost done recording a new album. It's due out on Arpil 15th. He played a song from it called When The Lines Go Down.
mp3: The Black Crowes - Oh Josephine
~ buy Warpaint (2008)
i've always liked The Black Crowes, but never been a huge fan. I really like Warpaint after the first couple listens. There's some classic Crowes bluesy sounds on it (Jospehine, Walk Believer Walk, Wounded Bird), but also, there's a new, more acoustic/folk feel on some tracks (Locust Street, There's Gold In Them Hills, Whoa Mule). Check it out.
mp3: Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová - You Ain't Goin' Nowhere (Bob Dylan)
~ buy I'm Not There (Soundtrack) (2007)
Haven't seen their movie, Once, yet, but i'm impressed with this duo. Original, inventive sounds. Their cover of one of my favortite Dylan tunes is really well done. You can find their Oscar-winning original song Falling Slowly just about everywhere.
mp3: Jayber Crow - Eugene, Oregon (Manifest Destiny)
~ buy The Farmer and the Nomad [EP]
There was considerable interest in the first Jayber Crow song i posted, so i found some more. This song has a cool battle-march feel to it.
mp3: Patty Griffin - Chief
~ buy 1000 Kisses (2005)
i saw the video for this song a couple years ago, but i just bought 1000 Kisses the other day. i don't think Patty Griffin puts out anything that isn't stellar.
mp3: Nizlopi - Start Beginning
~ buy Make It Happen (2008)
Nizlopi is an acoustic duo (Luke Concannon and John Parker) from the UK. Haven't heard a lot of their stuff, and some of it may be just a little too Hip-Hop for my taste (beat-boxing and electronics), but the big stand-up bass keeps it just folky enough for me.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
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)
Sunday, March 2, 2008
here's another Kasey Chambers cover of Fred Eaglesmith - i was gonna do this song as the Cover/Uncovered, but couldn't find a studio version from Fred. Enjoy.
mp3: Kasey Chambers - Freight Train ~ from The Captain (Bonus Disc) (2000)
"While I was waiting out the aforementioned record deal I wrote a ton of songs; more than enough for one album. So I decided to make two: one that I knew I would like, and one that I thought everyone would like. I always wanted to do something that I played all the instruments on so I made “Dragonfly”. This was the one I thought only I would like, but as it turns out it seems to be everyone’s favorite. I like to call it “porch music”. I don’t think I played all the instruments on it that well back then but I guess I got my point across. I do love most of those songs though. I did it in my bedroom on an Otari MX20-20 with a couple of AKG-414s (for you gearheads) for about $800 bucks. It’s a great “sit by the water” record."
read the whole self-written bio.
"there'll come a day, when i hit the ground.
when the big sky dive is over, and i'll touch down.
And i hope my angel will have pillows and feathers for me,
in case i come down... too hastily"
- from The Airplane Song
- mp3: Matt Powell - A Whiskey Shot Closer ~ from Fluke Luck and Jesus (2004) (out of print)
- mp3: Matt Powell - Striped Sunshine ~ from The Money and the Grass (1998)
- mp3: Matt Powell - Bulletproof Blanket ~ from Ten Gallon Heart (2001)
- mp3: Wade Bowen - Broken Reflection ~ from Lost Hotel (2006)
"take apart the smiles they've stapled to my face.
make them take the needles out of me.
help me stitch these stinging cuts, where i still bleed.
they've broken my reflection, and i am in need" - MP
Saturday, March 1, 2008
- i added the little blue player button - which seems to help with download times.
- i put an embedded stream player on the side bar that plays 50 of my most recent songs.
- i signed up with SiteMeter, so now i can see all the details of people's visits, including: location (i've had readers from all across the country and even Germany, Sweden, Austria, Pakistan, Australia, and The Philippines), time spent on the page, out clicks (the last page someone veiwed - which helps to track which songs people are downloading most), and referrals. These show that most people are finding 'This Mornin....' from Elbo.ws, which is cool.
i don't have any new tracks to post - at least none that are post-worthy - so i guess i'll just find a common theme within some songs:
An arcadian instrument formed from an mixture of traditional African instruments by American Slaves, the banjo evolved into the focal instrument in traditional country/bluegrass music. That's all changing. The banjo is no longer reserved for only country music. Bands that are more on the rock side of the spectrum are employing this highly versatile tool to bring out sounds that, otherwise, would have not have been possible. Sometimes it's just the resonating plunk in the background to top off a song (like in the Band of Horses tune below), and sometimes the banjo drives the song (like in the Avett Brothers, OCMS, and Abigail Washburn below), but however it's used, the instrument brings out a different, kinda warm feel.
here's a selection of tunes that use the banjo in non-traditional ways:
mp3: The Avett Brothers - Pretty Girl from Chile ~ from Emotionalism (2007)
mp3: Band of Horses - Window Blues ~ from Cease To Begin (2007)
mp3: Ryan Adams - Bartering Lines ~ from Heartbreaker (2000)
mp3: Abigail Washburn - Coffee's Cold ~ from Song of the Traveling Daughter (2005)
mp3: Old Crow Medicine Show - Don't Ride That Horse ~ from Big Iron World (2006)
mp3: Matt Powell - Dragonfly ~ from Dragonfly (2002)
to accompany my first Matt Powell reference, here is a song of his that has always hit me hard. i don't know the exact reason, but it's a powerful track.
mp3: Matt Powell - The Smell of Her Hair