Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Archivist: Ryan Adams - Gold

Musically, for me, the 90s were not the most inspiring period of the last 60 years. It did have a few high points however. One of them for me was the introduction of a brilliant songwriter from North Carolina called Ryan Adams.

Ryan came to prominence with the band he formed in Raleigh in North Carolina called Whiskeytown. They were what is often called an Alt Country band. Formed in 1994, they lasted until the year 2000 and released three albums, Faithless Street, Stranger's Almanac and  Pneumonia.

Ryan was the main songwriter for the band and had a hand in writing the majority of the band's output. It is here that Ryan started out on road to being one of the most prolific songwriters in Rock. In fact, Ryan's songwriting output is the stuff of Legend.

Over the three albums, Ryan and the band were almost the vanguards of the new Country Rock movement in the 90s.

The fact that Ryan was able to release his first solo album, Heartbreaker, almost immediately on leaving Whiskeytown is a testament to his songwriting talent and work ethic.

The album gained a lot of critical acclaim at it's time of release and for many it is Ryan's best solo release.

Ryan's song, Come Pick Me Up, was used in Cameron Crowe's movie Eizabethtown, along with 2 other songs, which gave the album a lot of new exposure when it was released in 2005.

It was also the second time that Ryan worked with the now super composer Ethan John, who had previously produced Whiskeytown's final album, Pneumonia. Ethan, who is great musician himself, brought the best out of Ryan.

A year later, in 2001, Ryan got together again with Ethan Johns to release what was to become his most successful album to date. This is no mean feat with 16 official releases and a vast array of unreleased albums too.

The first single from Gold was called New York, New York and would take it's place in history as probably the last music video to be recorded featuring the Twin Towers before it was destroyed in the terrorist attack on September 11 2001. It is an uplifting song and stands as a testament to the resilience of the people of New York.

Over 16 tracks, Ryan produced an album of astonishing depth and included many influences from all different types of music. Lyrically, it explored may influences including literary sources such as Sylvia Plath.

With Ethan's sympathetic production, the album ebbs and flows like a river. although it is 16 tracks in length it never gets boring.

From gorgeous country balladeering, to the Stones influenced blues stomp, Gold is one hell of a ride.

Ryan has continued to release excellent quality music. In 2004, he joined with the band The Cardinals and released some great albums. They really are his 'Crazy Horse'. He stayed with the Cardinals until 2009.

Ryan is so prolific - he even finds time to release solo music of different genres under various pseudonyms including Werewolph, Sleazy Handshake, The Shit  (and in 2013, Pornography) which he releases online.

Although he has not totally forgotten his Country/Rock routes over the years.

In October 2011, Ryan released his last 'official' album, Ashes & Fire which was produced by the legendary producer Glyn Johns, who just happens to be Ethan Johns father.

So we wait in anticipation of a Ryan Adams release in 2014. You never know.

Twitter - @TheRyanAdams


  1. Although Mr Jones would fervently argue for his solo debut, I agree with you that "Gold" is Adams' magnum opus. It may sprawl a bit too much, but there are so many strong songs... "La Cienega Just Smiled" maybe my favorite Adams' tune. Kinda downhill after Gold in my opinion. Way too prolific & uneven. I'd hate to think of how much I've spent on his records, with diminishing returns. Ashes & Fire was pretty good, but I've lost patience with the little prick. He's a hard person to like. I've referred to him as a bratty arsehole douchebag more than once, and we've had some interesting discussions at Hissyfit & Cathedrals Of Sound regarding the conflict of art vs the artist. It seems unanimous that an artist's bad manners can impinge on people's opinions enough to really cause backlash towards their art. See Van, Elton etc...
    Still, there's no denying 'Gold' is a gem...

    1. Agree with a lot of what you say here Tim but if we had to take into account an artists personality then we'd end up buying bugger all.

  2. I still stick with 'Heartbreaker' TT. Gold was great though. Agree that his quality control went out of the window soon after although I do have a soft spot for Love is Hell Parts 1 & 2. Bratty arsehole and douchebag (one word?) seem harsh but fair based on everything I've heard about him. Maybe too many people whispering 'Genius' in his ear. The richest story comes from his hijacking of that 'Songwriting Circle' thing. Was it BBC4?
    I reckon Neil Finn and Janis Ian could have taken him... The latest victim of 'Vanism' seems to be Mark Kozelek. Shame as I love the Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon. His recent 'electronic' album 'Perils From the Sea' with Jimmy Lavalle is storytelling par excellence and yet...

    1. Yes, it was BBC4 Trev, I remember it well. If YOU start getting ideas above your station Mr Jones, I'll slap you down straight away LOL :)

  3. Not me Nick. I'm a pussycat; unless of course you talk whilst I'm singing: then you best duck...