Friday, 22 March 2013

Albums for Life: 33: Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker

Come pick me up
Take me out
Fuck me up
Steal my records
Screw all my friends
Behind my back
With a smile on your face
And then do it again
I wish you would

I know folk who know folk who have worked with Ryan Adams.
Their common concurrence is 'tosser!'.
I have seen one or two bits of footage that reinforce this.
In particular a 'BBC4 Songwriter's Circle' that he shared with Janis Ian and Neil Finn.
Apparently they had rehearsed and were to do their own songs and then pitch in with each others.
Upon performance Adams removed any offer of collaboration, changed his songs and just acted aloof, distant, withdrawn. If you google the three names you'll see that things didn't end well.
Maybe Adams was just having a laugh at the old fogey's expense...

Gossip aside, when Adams split from Whiskytown he came out with this album pretty sharpish. Upon release in 2000 it was universally praised. Produced by Glyn John's son Ethan, he and Adams play everything on the album with the exception of some keyboards by Pat Sansone on three tracks. It also features vocal contributions from Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris.

My manager called and said, 'You have 15 seconds to name this record.' My eyes focused on this poster of Mariah Carey wearing a T-shirt that said HEARTBREAKER. I just shouted, 'Heartbreaker!'

With his hands firmly on the wheel, Ryan produced a controlled and mature collection of mainly downbeat songs. He has released many great albums since, a criticism is that he's too prolific and seems to have lost any sense of quality control. I wonder if it's just that his generous output has made us him too familiar to us... we should really be grateful to the talented little cuss... I'm sure he'd agree.
And still, for me this debut remains his most engaging album. There's an intimate flow that marks it as cohesive singer/songwriting fodder of the highest order. Heartbreaking indeed...

Here's a version of 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' with Laura Marling (and a squeaky chair) stepping into Emmylou's shoes. It's followed by another live performance, of 'Winding Wheel'. Finally my favourite Adams song 'Come Pick Me Up' taken from the aforementioned 'Songwriters' Circle'. They might be quietly smoldering but check out the stunned admiration on the faces of Finn and Ian. Adams is mesmeric during that session; maybe the tension added to the intensity of the performance.
It's well worth checking out the whole thing if you have the time.


  1. I love come pick me up but never knew who it was by.

    Followed the google links and it is hilarious playground stuff

    RE your Duncan Sheilk (sp?) post if you haven't already got it his latest 80s covers (it does what it says on the tin) is fantastic

    what works is that the originals are all so familiar even if the interpretations are very different

  2. Thanks David. Ordered and anticipated.