Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bad boy (and Jax native) Adams tries to restore his good name

Singer/songwriter Ryan Adams -- a native of Jacksonville and a guy who honed his musical skills in Raleigh -- has no trouble making music. Since 2000, he has released nine albums, though this Associated Press article says it's more like 15. Adams' problem is that he doesn't appear to know how to "trim down" his work.

".. I really did believe in what I was doing," Adams told the AP. "I'm glad that the work is there and it will speak for itself later."

Adams, 32, is clear-eyed and determined these days. The North Carolina native, who played in the band Whiskeytown during the 1990s before turning solo, lives with his girlfriend in New York. He has been sober for more than a year after kicking a prodigious drug and alcohol problem, although he resists the easy assumption that sobriety has improved his art.

As a singer and songwriter, he's capable of work that is extraordinarily beautiful when you least expect it. Listen, for example, to "This House is Not for Sale," where he vividly captures the desperation of a man trying to stop his estranged lover from taking a final step away by reminding her of the good memories in the floorboards.

The gorgeous "When the Stars Go Blue" caught the attention of Tim McGraw, who recorded it and turned it into a hit single.

Stephen King even wrote the press release accompanying "Easy Tiger." "I won't say Adams is the best North American singer-songwriter since Neil Young," he wrote. "But I won't say he isn't, either."

Yet the sheer volume of his output means listeners need to sift through a lot of less remarkable songs to find the special moments, and many simply don't have the patience. He released three albums in 2005 alone, and one of them had two discs.

The industry shorthand: Adams lacks an internal editor and anyone strong enough to do it for him. ...

Adams goes on to say that he believes he's punished for refusing to adhere to an industry standard where artists spend a longer time polishing fewer songs, and new releases generally come every two or three years. Business usually dictates this schedule, to give record companies time to market the music.

"I felt I had, if not a gift, some kind of a drive that I couldn't explain that led me to make music at a good rate and I could focus on it for eight or 10 hours a day," he told AP.


A.E. Jimmy said...

From what I understand, Ryan's nothing more than a pompous douchebag.

Jason B. Graves said...

I won't argue, I've heard some pretty nasty stories through the press and through folks who have played with him. I will, however attest to his artistic prowess. He's like a chameleon and can mimic lots of great songwriters but without losing his own persona.

Artists aren't usually known for their temperament. I perceive his arrogance as frustration with trying to make a living as a musician, soloist, songwriter. Hell, he even caught flack for being a sellout allowing Tim McGraw to borrow "...Blue." I'm not defending him 100%, but I feel he has a point.

Let me refer you another outstanding songwriter from the area, Jeff Hart. Jeff is just as skilled with a pen though he has a finer pop senseability where Adams has more grit.

Check out his MySpace page then do yourself a favor and venture to see him play live sometime.

M. Lail said...

Thanks for the heads-up about Jeff Hart. I will definitely check him out.

I think Adams' "problem" (if you can call it that) is that he doesn't know when to take advice. He coudl go down as the greatest songwriter of our generation -- if just he would listen and say, "you know, maybe my stuff is a bit too indulgent at times." Despite all his problems, he may STILL be the best songwriter of our generation. (And to think that if I'd stayed in J-ville, we may have been classmates -- and even bandmates!!!)

Oh, and by the way, the Coors/Bono version of "Blue" is SO much better than McGraw's.

M. Lail said...

Just to clarify a bit more... I really feel like too many of Adams' songs are throwaways. I found that to be a problem with Whiskeytown too. You'd have 3 or 4 gems on an album with 7 or 8 songs that I'll skip past.

Jason B. Graves said...

I just had friend e-mail me and he pretty clear that it goes deeper than what I've said. I know what he's talking about because we've discussed it before. Best put, yeah, he has issues.

I didn't know you were a player???

M. Lail said...

Oh, yeah. Not as much as I used to (or as much as I like), but I do "pick" a little.

M. Lail said...

Ryan had another famous meltdown: