Back in 2015 Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift’s 1989 in its entirety, had a hit with it as well. But that was over seven years ago and after that his life went up in flames as he got tangled up in Mandy Moore and the #metoo movement ended his career. And yet it didn’t, Ryan released six albums, including this superb track by track take on Bob Dylan’s masterpiece of divorce, Blood On The Tracks, and I guess its own form of #metoo, as well.
It was a strange year for Ryan Adams fans, reaching a zenith for me with two albums, Chris and Romeo and Juliet and a sublime solo concert at Carnegie Hall in Mid-May (here), harkening a well received (except ignored by the mainstream media) greatest concert ever. Ryan hadn’t resurrected his career or his reputation but it certainly did prove that he had a career, tattered but still in working order.
The four new albums from 2022 were all good and so was the two cover albums:
Chris – A
Romeo + Juliet – A
FM – B+
Devolver – B
Nebraska – B
Blood On The Tracks – A
Ignored everywhere, nothing in anywhere from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork, he released song after song of emotional devastation and not just the break-up of a marriage but the pulling apart of an entire life. Seeming to swing between a Cardinals style blueness and a Prisoner type cage, certainly Chris and Romeo And Juliet took a saddened study of being dismissed from all aspects of your life. The first album, Chris, is a story that conflates the loss of his brother with the loss of more or less everything else, and Romeo And Juliet with odes to exes and to pussy cats, Alyson Camus preferred it to Chris though nobody preferred it to his aptly named FM (WHICH WAS STILL GREAT). Ryan dropped over a hundred songs this year and with the exception of an exceptionally misjudged “Open All Night” with the melody – a Bruce Springsteen flat out masterpiece flattened. Otherwise, Nebraska is a great album and in a sense Nebraska is Ryan’s business life the way Blood On The Tracks is Ryan’s love life, and while they are both flattened out to a degree, the blues take on “Meet Me In The Morning” was a mistake though the country indie “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts” was a tremendous and truly honorable attempts.
Springsteen’s Nebraska was recorded on cassette at his home and released as an unboot boot and from “Johnny 99” to “Atlantic City” it was business gone bad and worse, and if it wasn’t a direct reflection on Ryan being betrayed… well , I believe it was and I think that the title track is an epitaph of sorts:
Sheriff, when the man pulls that switch, sir
And snaps my poor head back
You make sure my pretty baby
Is sittin’ right there on my lap
Mandy or Phoebe or one of the others, how about the girl who claimed to be thirteen and wasn’t, are invited to join him in purgatory. From this distance? Ryan’s neediness drove Mandy insane, she left him to join “This Is Us” and it felt like she had no choice. But Phoebe? Before it blew up in Ryan’s face she admitted to be super down for a sexual relationship (arrangement?) with him and it was him who gave her her only great song, “Motion Sickness” (spoiler alert: she didn’t come). And nobody else much matters.
Anyway, Ryan was just crappy with women, so full of need and desire, clinging so hard he (metaphorically) strangles everyone he comes close to. But not physically. He might torture women emotionally but nothing compared to how he tortures himself. Nebraska isn’t quite right, but Blood On The Tracks is a great fit. Not just because it is a lone man on the road again looking for another joint. Betrayed by all his friends (except for a Lucinda Williams and Chrissie Hynde here and there) he went back to his studio and couldn’t write his way out of it, he went on a tour and performed three hour sets of career retrospectives.
Ryan’s Blood On The Tracks is superior to his Nebraska and yes it is a better album but both albums are masterpieces, and also because a line like “I’ve been double crossed so many times I think I’ve lost my mind” rings truer than anything on his own albums.
But it isn’t the lyrics and it isn’t the arrangements (he adds synths to acoustic guitar) but the singing, everything touches you, he is so beautiful sounding and so heartbroken. I’ve known Blood On The Tracks very well for a very long time (In 2018 I BOUGHT the More Blood, More Tracks) and note that Ryan sings a mid-section rewrite from earlier takes. Everything here makes sense, if you’d never heard it before you might well believe Ryans wrote the lot.
Next March Ryan is back on a West Coast tour (and there is a promise of Carnegie Hall Part II live album) but I can’t believe this will make you take him back, there is so forgiveness, there is no pity, there is no exit, there is only tracks and blood.
Has Brit rock ever been worse?
essence de 2023
A very percussive song
the mixes his producer Daniel Lanois didn’t like
her best since “Milionària”
dip yourself deep in sonic hellaciousness and disquiet
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – December 1982 (Volume 14, Number 7)
“If you’re black you have to play a certain type of music”
“I can’t think of a better way to spend my 90th birthday”
What better gift for a Baby Boomer loved one?
caught the world’s attention