Monday, October 5, 2009

Evolution of Song: What Sin Replaces Love

What Sin Replaces Love?
Love is gone. There's a hole where it used to be. What is the quickest way to fill it?

That's what Ryan Adams asks in one of his most epic songs. And he wants to know RIGHT fucking NOW. The answer he inevitably settles on seems to be murder. He wants to "kick love right in its gut; beat it and leave it for dead." It shouldn't come as a surprise that 'What Sin...' was never officially included on an album. But since its inception around 2000, the song has been a live staple. While it hasn't changed lyrically in 9 years, it has evolved from a dark, acoustic tune into a full-on electric blues jam. Let's explore.

Tell me what sin replaces love
I wanna know, right now

Tell me what sin replaces love

I wanna know, right now

Imagine yourself on a mountain

A mountain discolored with flowers

Flowers discolored with horses

Horses distracted by stones

Stone distrusting and mean

Then you might know what I mean

I want to kick love right in its gut

Beat it and leave it for dead

Go and wash my hands in the river

Lie down and die in your bed

The voice on the receiver

Baby cry howlin' in the wind

I don't wanna beg for your mercy

I wanna know right know, what sin

Tell me what sin replaces love

I wanna know, right now

2000: Live @ The Boardwalk
Sheffield, UK - 11.19.00

This isn't the first time Ryan played this song - that was in February of 2000, the same night he claims to have written and first performed 'Come Pick Me Up' - but it's still in its original form here. Get the whole show for a great mix of his early solo stuff.

2001: Live @ The Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA - 2.17.01

Not much different than the introductory version but still amazing in its quiet tenebrosity. Full show.

Ryan nearly shelved the song after 2001, playing it just a handful of times in 2002, and once each in '03 and '04. But in 2005, 'What Sin Replaces Love' was given its proper credit, showing up as a bonus track in the Japanese release of The Cardinals' Jacksonville City Nights in all its electric glory. Included in a hard-to-find JCN 3-track promo was a studio recording of the acoustic version of 'What Sin.' I'll post these on my Jacksonville City Nights review.

2005: Live - The Loft Sessions
XM Radio Studios - 4.19.05
Full-Band Electric

Here, the original Cardinals lineup doles out the jam version of 'What Sin.' This one is pretty true to the electric bonus track, with an extra helping of extended solos.

2006: Live @ the Borderline
London, UK - 9.19.06
3-Piece Acousitc

Around this time, The Cardinals were changing form - in fact, every element except Brad on the drums. Ryan, Neal Casal, and Jon Graboff play an amazing set in London - with Jon on mandolin - giving the setlist made up of a good mix of JCN, Cold Roses, and Easy Tiger a fresh sound. I suggest downloading the whole thing.

2007: Live on The Henry Rollins Show
IFC - 4.20.07
Full-Band Electric

The latest version may prove to be the best. Here, 'What Sin' is fully formed and extended with powerful solos. An 8+ minute jam version delivered with the same spitting anger it was written with.
One word: SICK. See video.

Check out more Evolution of Song at

Ryan Adams: These Girls 8.9.2008
Wagon Wheel 6.5.2008

1 comment:

  1. Monster/full on rock JCN bonus track lifted from Cardinals III/IV (IV/V) anyone?

    With the delay in the release of JCN aka September, and with this track being so different to any other released JCN session track, AND Wolfie's recent discussions re sessions/time lines etc, I would not be suprised if this addition was not a riposte to LH at the time ie a sneak preview to his deep throat fans as to...'look what's in the can already' AND fuel to the label debate as to 'why can't I release 3 albums in 2006 as well' Ry was having at the time.

    Obviously his hustle to release '29' was won but at the cost of III/IV and Blackhole???

    Certainly a career highlight, WSRL being resigned to a 'hard to get' bonus track on JCN (a country rock record) does not add up. Time will reveal me thinks.........