In most any article you read about Ryan Adams, the word “prolific” is used to describe his creative output. And while that’s certainly a true statement, the belief that all Mr. Adams releases is worthwhile is not. With that said, I respect his penchant for releasing anything and everything he records; witnessing an artist work through his craft is an interesting process – seeing where it takes him, hearing all the stages from Point A to Point B, hearing the growth of a song. It’s probably sacrilege to call this blog art of any kind, but for the sake of argument, if I put up everything I wrote in free form, it wouldn’t read very well at all. As a perfectionist when it comes to my own writing, that ability to constantly bear your creative self is a bit scary.
The time around 2001 was Ryan Adams at his peak. Heartbreaker was released in September of 2000, Gold in September of 2001, and Whiskeytown’s Pneumonia somewhere in between the two (although Pneumonia was shelved for a couple years, so chronologically, it came before both.) And while Heartbreaker held about five drop-down killer songs (to me), overall it felt too meandering. Gold, conversely, is a front-to-back hold-your-attention album. There’s not a single misstep the entire way through.
Adams starts his sonic journey in the east with “New York, New York,” his love song to his adoptive home, and winds his way to the West Coast with the closing track “Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd.” During the road trip, he regales us with country-twinged stories of love lost, love lived – the stories that define us all. It’s distinctly American in feeling – all open skies and road. I wish that I had seen Ryan play live right after this came out – the spring/summer of 2002 – because I have in my mind that he would have been the most affecting with a full set of Heartbreaker and Gold. But that’s just me.
It will probably be that Ryan Adams never releases another album that comes close to Gold. (Hell, he might not release anything else at all if his blog is to be believed.) But on each subsequent album, I catch glimpses of it, and I’m happy to know he still has it in him. I’d happily give up having three albums per year from him if he released Gold every time he did put something out.
Ryan Adams – Firecracker (mp3)
Ryan Adams – Answering Bell (mp3)
Ryan Adams – Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues (mp3)