Ryan Adams: Exile on Franklin Street…..

Posted by Payton | Posted in album review, ryan adams spotlight | Posted on 05-11-2008

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First Visit to This Mornin’ I Am Born Again…?
Hold The Phone. In my haste to get to some of the more exciting album reviews in Ryan Adams’ collection (the cardinals), i have chronologically overlooked a few of the infamous unreleased albums floating around out there. My plan all along has been to completely review the Ryan Adams back-catalog – highlighting the best aspects of each album – while posting some alternate versions/unreleased/bonus material from each. The only thing is…. i jumped in without much of a plan at all. i knew i wanted to give all his work a fair chance, because i’ve ran across many a song of Ryan’s that absolutely floors me – and some of those are hidden amongst music that is either very hard to find, or a little too obscure for me. As prolific as Ryan is – referring simply to his official releases – this endeavor would not be complete if i don’t include these multiple albums-worth of studio recordings that Bloodshot/Lost Highway deemed un-worthy for release.
A couple Whiskeytown sessions have already seen the glory of a proper release: The Baseball Park Sessions that appeared on the re-issue of Faithless Street and, most recently, some extra material done during the Strangers Almanac recording session: The Deluxe Edition.
As we saw in 2005 (with the release of 3 studio albums – one of them a double-disc), Ryan’s overwhelming writing outputs occur in over-inspired bursts. While i did briefly mention The Destroyer Sessions and Exile on Franklin Street in my Heartbreaker review, there are three additional ’so-called sessions’ that took place in the time-frame from – just prior to Heartbreaker up to the recording of Gold: The Pinkheart Sessions, The Suicide Handbook, and 48 Hours.

You can read about all of Ryan’s “sessions” here
at AnsweringBell.com

With the release of the Ryan Adams Box-Set seeming more-and-more as likely as Chinese Democracy (both the political endeavor and the Guns N’ Roses reunion album), i figured i better not hold my breath and go ahead and post some of what i have. I suspect that the box-set, if it ever sees the light of day, will be remasterd and possibly deepened, but these session recordings are often bare, and sometimes rough demos.

Exile on Franklin Street
Spring/Early Summer 2000

Van Alston helped with the production of this session and says it was intended to be part of a 4-disc Demolition series given over to Lost Highway. Obviously only one of the discs was released, and i’m not sure if the other two parts are some of the aforementioned sessions, but it sure makes you wonder how much goodness is still out there somewhere. Much of this session is made up of the random electric guitars and screaming that we sometimes see Ryan feel like he needs to excrete – reminiscent of some of the weird stuff he had streaming out of the Spaceship on DotComMuthaFucka. But as with all of his work, there are some hidden gems. The real songs on Exile show everything from his deep Stones influence to his very Whiskeytown-sounding stuff.

mp3: Ryan Adams – The Last Dance

mp3: Ryan Adams – Why You Wanna Lemme Down

Because i feel like being nice today, and because if the legal guys at Geffen/Interscope/whoever can’t even figure out who has the rights to this material, i figure i can’t get busted for posting this:
Download a Zip File of the complete Exile on Franklin Street session.

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Continue on to my review of The Destroyer Sessions.

Be sure to check out the rest of my extra-large Ryan Adams Spotlight.
1. Whiskeytown
2. Heartbreaker
3. Gold
or, just click here for all of them on one page.

Cover/Uncovered: Mike McClure…..

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, cover/uncovered | Posted on 04-26-2008

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i keep putting off that Artist Spotlight i’ve been planning for Mike McClure, but to get some more of his music out to you guys, i’ll highlight a couple of covers he regularly does. Both are covers of legendary artists and show both ends of the spectrum of Mike’s style.

i consider Mike one the best songwriters around today. This may come as a surprise to some of you, only because you’ve never heard of him. But i’ve known about his poetic way with words since about ‘98 – back with The Great Divide. I didn’t realize the genious in him until his first solo effort, Twelve Pieces, came out in ‘02. People who are great songwriters (and often know they are) normally have a hard time doing cover songs – if they do, they choose very wisely. That’s exactly the case here with Mike. From the multitude of McClure bootlegs i’ve come across, i know he’s a huge fan of Van Morrison. He finally put a cover of a Van song on an album with Into The Mystic on Camelot Falling:

Cover: Mike McClure Band – Into The Mystic

Mike (and band) stay very true to Van The Man’s version with this cover – from the acoustic intro, to the unmistakable bassline, and even the heartfelt vocals when the chorus builds. A perfect example of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Uncovered: Van Morrison – Into The Mystic <------ copyright issues...
buy Moondance (1970)
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Most of the tracks i’ve posted from Mike show his singer-songwriter side, but if you have ever caught a concert of his, you know that’s not all there is. Mike is a dork for 80’s rock and when he plays live, he lets that kid in him that always dreamed of being in a hair-metal band come out – extended solos and amped up guitars. Mike was the frontman as well as lead guitarist for The Great Divide. When he first formed The Mike McClure Band in ‘03, he employed the help of lead-guitarist Rodney Pyeatt (former member of Selena’s band). This bootleg is from a show when Pyeatt was still with the band, but Mike eventually felt the need to rip up solo’s on his own again. The Mike McClure Band is currently a 3-piece (Mike, bassist Tom Skinner, and Eric Hansen on drums).

Cover: Mike McClure Band – Rockin’ In The Free World (live)
A staple of his live (full band) shows, Mike gives Rockin’ In The Free World a little twist both musically and by throwing in some slightly altered lines of his own.

Ryan Adams: Gold….

Posted by Payton | Posted in album review, ryan adams spotlight | Posted on 04-25-2008

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“Had myself a lover who was finer than GOLD,
but I’ve broken up and busted up since.”

If you’re new here, be sure to check out
volumes 1 and 2 of my extra-large Ryan Adams
Spotlight.

1. Whiskeytown
2. Heartbreaker

or, just click here for all of them on one page.

With Heartbreaker blowing the door open – critically, not commercially – for Ryan’s solo career, he was able to step out of the Alt-country world he had been living in since Whiskeytown and make the rockin’ blues record he had been wanting to.

In 2001, emerging record label, Lost Highway, picked up on the genius that was Heartbreaker, and signed Ryan. Their first order of business was to pluck Whiskeytown’s Pneumonia off the shelf it had been collecting dust on due to legal troubles with other labels. They released it in March of ‘01.


So, Ryan put together 16 stellar tracks that literally span from coast to coast. Gold begins with New York, New York, and song that, in the wake of 9/11, became Ryan’s biggest hit to date. The video received considerable airplay on MTV in the weeks following the disaster. Other obvious standouts include Answering Bell (with vocal help from Adam Duritz of Counting Crows), The Rescue Blues, Touch Feel & Lose, and When The Stars Go Blue. To the surprise of many, Tim McGraw covered Stars Go Blue recently (i don’t feel the need to look up anything on McGraw). At a live show, after playing the song, Ryan said “that’s right, i wrote that song. i got a pool made out of unicorn bones because of that fucking song.” My favorite obscure track off the album is Gonna Make You Love Me More - one of many that evoke The Stones – check it out. Like every other Ryan Adams album (with the exception of Rock N Roll) the disc closes with his signature melancholy piano ballad. Goodnight Hollywood Blvd brings an amazing record full circle – geographically and stylistically.

Gold brought Ryan into the Rock/Pop spotlight (that he soon after shot out and hid from) with 2 Grammy Nominations: Best Rock Album and Best Male Rock Vocal for New York, New York.

Notable Liner Note Shout Outs:
Elton John – you sweet sweet man
Mexico for being Mexico
OASIS!!!
Mike Fuckin Daly
Rhett Miller and the 97’s
Keith Richards
Converse and cowboy boots
the Harlem Globetrotters
Anne Frank
MEG WHITE – for saving Rock ‘n’ Roll
Alanis Morrisette (4 times)
and Winona Ryder….. damn girl

But the fun doesn’t stop there, folks. As usual, Ryan rounded up a disc of B-sides for Gold. i’ve said before, i don’t want to post any album cuts from Ryan, as i think you should you do yourself a favor and buy them. But for your listening pleasure, here is side D from the album:

1. mp3: Rosalie Come and Go
2. mp3: The Fools We Are As Men
3. mp3: Sweet Black Magic
4. mp3: The Bar Is a Beautiful Place
5. mp3: Cannonball Days

The bonus disc contains a little bit of everything: timeless rockers, contemplative ballads, and even a hint of bluegrass.

In addition to the B-sides, i’ve gotten my hands on a couple tracks that came with the New York, New York single released in November of 2001.

mp3: Mara Lisa
mp3: From You To Me

Buy Gold here (iTunes) or here (Amazon).
Get in on Vinyl here, and get the Bonus Tracks.

—-> Continue on to the next Post….

—-> View the Ryan Adams Spotlight on one page…

Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker

Posted by Payton | Posted in album review, ryan adams spotlight | Posted on 03-20-2008

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At first glance, you might think the album title, Heartbreaker, is a cocky self-description. After you give it a real listen, however, it becomes very evident that this is not the case. Instead, the title refers simply to the album itself – this shit’ll make you cry. Whether it’s the quiet acoustic nature of most of the songs, the weeping harmonica, or just the plaintive lyrics, Heartbreaker came from somewhere deep within Ryan. Even the 2 or 3 more up-tempo (possibly more listener-friendly) tracks on the album reveal themselves as heartbreakers in disguise once you unplug them and strip ‘em down to their lyrics.

Speaking of lyrics – upon my in-depth listening sessions in preparation for this post, i was once again – but also more than ever – blown away by his words. It seems interesting to me that a (solo) debut from an artist can be their most lyrically profound album. Now, i know not everyone will agree with me there, but that’s the beauty to music – it affects everyone differently. While i do think Ryan has grown and improved with each album, you have to admit that his debut, although not commercially successful, remains one of his best. Plus, its a little odd to do a back-review of an album having heard 8 years of the artist’s more recent work, so i tried not to compare it with anything else of his and take it for what it is: a masterpiece.

So, that said, i’ve decided to review this album track-by-track with some live/unreleased versions of the songs. i tried to find live versions from around 2000 so they would be solo acoustics and not have been Cardinal-ified (not that that’s a bad thing). i’ve also highlighted a line or two from each song that left me stunned:

1. Argument with David Rawlings Concerning Morrissey
While this track, which is exactly what it is titled, isn’t very important to the album itself, it does give you an idea for the mood in the studio. i really enjoy when we get that sneak peak into some of the recording process. Plus, it often shows that the artists are really in there recording what they are playing and not just recording each track (track here meaning each instrument or piece of music/vocals) separately. I posted a song here that is another great example of this.
Helping Ryan on this disc was producer and multi-instrumentalist Ethan Johns and the dynamic duo of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. I could try to explain the studio process and the concepts for the album, by Ryan does it pretty well here:

mp3: Interview (1) on World Cafe - Philadelphia, PA – 9/28/00

2. mp3: To Be Young (Is to be Sad, Is to be High)
(from the World Cafe Interview)

i can’t quite remember, but this song may have been the first time i heard Ryan. It was on the soundtrack to Old School and plays at the start of the movie. This is one of those more up-beat tracks on the album, and i love the fact the he begins with this one – as if to fool the listener into thinking they know what’s to come.
The World Cafe Interview is one Ryan did just a few days after the album was released. There are some good, stripped down tracks and some interesting interview material. You can get the whole thing here.

No specific lyrics i wanna highlight, but in one of the interview tracks, Ryan is asked how the bridge came about in the song (if he took it from another song or something) beacuse it “comes out of nowhere”. Ryan’s response is simply “It’s the one i thought should be in there”. Nice.

3. mp3: My Winding Wheel
(from the World Cafe Interview)

I couldn’t find it anywhere, but i’ve heard a clip of Ryan talking about his first encounter with Bobby D at a dinner at Elton John’s house. Bob’s one question to Ryan was, “so what the fuck is a winding wheel?”
Great guitar work on this version.


“precious little thing, with eyes that dance around without their clothes”


4. mp3: Amy
(from World Cafe Interview)

Although i don’t know much about the real Amy, she definitely was/is a huge influence on Ryan. This tune exemplifies one my favorite subtle techniques – where the fingerpicking on the guitar follows the melody of the song. Ryan’s a pro at this. Another good example is the bonus track on JCN, What Sin Replaces Love. Obviously not present on this acoustic version, one of my favorite parts on the album version of Amy is when that booming bass drum kicks in. It just adds to the already haunting quality of the song.

“i go to the places where we used to. i feel sad.”

5. mp3: Oh My Sweet Carolina
(from Live at the KB – Malmo, Sweden – 11/6/00)

Wow. What a song. It’s one of many tunes inspired by/written about Ryan’s homeland of North Carolina. If you can get Emmylou Harris to sing on your debut album, you doing something right. One of the most sought-after backing vocalist/duet partner in the Americana scene, Emmylou has this angelic quality to her voice that transforms any song she touches. I think i might have to do a whole post on Emmylou’s vocal additions to some of my favorite artists.

“up here in the city, feels like things are closing in. the sunset’s just my lightbulb burning out”

“building newsprint boats, i raced to sewer mains”

6. mp3: Bartering Lines
(from The Destoyer Sessions)

The Destroyer Session is one of Ryan’s unreleased albums that we will hopefully get in a box set soon (no news on the release of this sometime last year). Somewhere, though, i got a hold of this collection. The session was recorded with Gillian and Dave just a few days before Heartbreaker at Pilot Recording Studios in NYC . The session included some very cool still unreleased material (one of my all-time favorite tunes Poison & The Pain) as well as some tracks, like this one, that made the cut on subsequent albums. They did some real cool electric stuff with this song.

“leave it on the table, to somebody else the money’s got a use”

7. mp3: Call Me on Your Way Back Home
(from Live at the Boardwalk – Sheffield, UK – 11/18/00)

On the studio version, the song breaks wide open after the second chorus with a string section as Ryan rips up the harmonica. This version from an awesome show in the UK obviously has no string section, but the harmonica is just as sorrowful.

“honey, i aint nothin’ new”
“i was just a kid, bubble gum on my shoe”

8. mp3: Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)
(from Live at the Boardwalk)

If you listen to the banter at the end of the last track, you’ll learn that Ryan (at least he claims) wrote Damn, Sam a couple hours before playing that show in Sheffield. Not bad for curing some backstage boredom. I could almost highlight every line from this song, but here are the few that got me thinkin’:

“i’m calm as a fruit stand in new york, and maybe as strange”
“i’m as open as a door in her house that leads to her room”

“clear as a bell, and sound as an old engineer”
- then he repeats the line as if to say, ‘yeah, that’s what i said. badass, huh?’

9. mp3: Come Pick Me Up
(from unknown live show)

i don’t remember where i picked this track up, but most likely off Archive.org. Ryan says he wrote it the same day the recording was made. It’s always interesting to see how artists transform and alter songs before they make it to an album.

Come Pick Me Up hits on an interesting topic for me. Often, i start to dislike songs that get too much attention or are overplayed – these are usually the first couple songs that i hear from an artist. As this song seemed to be one his most popular tunes off Heartbreaker, this was the case. In much the same way that bands fear “selling out” by becoming too popular, the same phenomenon can happen to a song. The truth is, however, that this track is badass. I realized this when listening to this live version; the crowd reacts to the song naturally (it’s the first time they’ve heard it) and not with any preconceived notions as to what the song is – It’s just Ryan telling a true story as literally as possible.

“i wrote this today. it probably sucks.”
“try it [her bed] for sleepin’ instead, maybe you’ll rest sometime” – slut.

10. mp3: To Be The One
(from Live at the Exit/In – Nashville, TN – 10/28/99)

A pretty simple tune – at least dynamically – Ryan, his guitar and harmonica. But Ryan proves, once again, that sometimes simple is good. Real good. To me, this song sounds like a drunken confessional.

“while the things I do kill me, they just tell me to relax.”
“the empty bottle, it misses you. but i’m the one it’s talkin’ to.”

11. mp3: Why Do They Leave?
(from Live at Stubb’s – Austin, TX – 3-16-00)

Probably the heartbreaking-est tune on the album.
Both on this live version and in the studio Ryan has Kim Richey backing him up on vocals. Download this whole show – you get some good stuff from Heartbreaker, some Whiskeytown, plus a couple super bonus finds:
- A (really) early version of Don’t Fail Me Now. A song that didn’t make an album until JCN – 5 years later.
- Allegedly 1 of 2 known performances of Goodbye, Honey – one of Ryan’s rarest (and best) bonus tracks.

“simple cards and things. rose colored sunsets, no flowers from me.”

12. mp3: Shakedown on 9th Street
(from Live at the Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, ON – 9/26/00)

In the midst of all this sadness comes an electrified, groovin’ rock tune. Somehow, under all that i guess it could be sad – i’m pretty sure Lucy dies, so…. The part of Lucy is played (sung) by Gillian Welch on the album cut.
It was kinda hard to find an acoustic version of this – The Cardinals play it all the time, however. Ryan does his best to imitate Gillan on this version.

“someone’s gonna get it, ain’t gonna be me”
“i was just gonna hit him but i’m gonna kill him now”

13. mp3: Don’t Ask For The Water
(from Exile on Franklin Street)

Definitely one of my favorite obscure tunes from Ryan – by that i mean one that your casual RA fan wouldn’t even remember. Simple but piercing lyrics set to meandering fingerpicking. One of a few tracks on this album that seethes with, not hate, but simply contempt toward a past lover.
Exile on Franklin Street is another one of those unreleased/unofficial albums. Recorded on a 4-track in early 2000 and produced by Van Alston, Ryan plays all the instruments on it (minus the string section, i’m guessing) – drums too (that’s what he started out doing, you know?) He really took this song to another place on this version.

“down here in the sewer, i’m smellin’ a rat”
“and what horses we rode, through what somber fields. with our lovers at war, and the dust on our heels.”
“and her weapon of choice is a red-patterned dress”

14. mp3: In My Time of Need
(from The Destroyer Sessions)

The album cut starts with the creak of a chair as Ryan respositions himself and clams that “sitting on [his] foot is weird.” Little things like this are what make albums cool. They’re obviously not overproduced or constantly being over-dubbed – just the artists trying out a couple takes and using the best one. That’s how albums are supposed to be recorded.
The song is loosely based on Ryan’s interpretation of the life of an old man he met while recording an album in upstate New York (you can read all about it at AnsweringBell). From the sincerity and age-old wisdom in the lyrics, for a minute you believe that Ryan is like 78. This song was one of the first that made aware of the songwriting genius of Ryan Adams.

“work these hands to bleed, cause i got mouths to feed. and i got fifteen dollars hid above the stove.”
“these old bones are worn. i’ve grown tiresome. and i know my time is surely gonna come.”

15. mp3: Sweet Lil’ Gal (23rd/1st)
(from Live at the Mountain Stage – Charleston, SC – 10/8/00)

A true piano ballad to top off this masterwork. Some thought definitely went into the track order and flow of this disc to make it a true, 2-sided album.
I actually like this live version better than the one on Heartbreaker. Superb vocals and i feel like you can hear the emotion come through a little better.

“steals my shirt, makes me hurt”
“steals my shirt, 23rd & 1st”

Buy Heartbreaker here (iTunes) or here (Amazon). Or better yet, get the real thing (vinyl) here (musicdirect).

Be sure to check out the

first installment of my multi-post Ryan Adams Artist Spotlight





Continue on to my Gold review…….

Took Me Long Enough…

Posted by Payton | Posted in artist spotlight, ryan adams spotlight | Posted on 03-04-2008

Tagged Under : ,

So, i’m sittin’ here thinkin’ about who/what to post about next, and i realized that, aside from a couple brief mentions in my ‘best of 2007′ posts and a couple songs here and there, in about 2 months of blogging, i haven’t talked about one of my favorite guys ever….

Ryan Adams

i’m not gonna be timid like a bunch of people are when they talk about Ryan…

He IS the best American songwriter since Bob Dylan. Many other people say that he may be, he will be, or he is close to. Fuck that.
He IS
.

i think there are a few conditions – most of which one must meet to be considered a great singer/songwriter:

  • must pay their dues – prior to Whiskeytown, Ryan helped form a couple different bands (Blank Label, Lazy Stars, Space Madness, The Patty Duke Syndrome) and is no stranger to smoky bar gigs, long road stretches, or heckling fans.
  • must be prolific – how’s 9 full-length albums in 7 years (12 in 11 years if you count Whiskeytown’s releases). Not to mention numerous EP’s, and at least six albums-worth of material that never made it to a release (yet).
  • must have a (somewhat) troubled life – Ryan, in his new found sobriety, is not ashamed to talk about his past drug and alcohol addictions, and how they almost ended his life/career on numerous occasions. Moreover, these addictions, plus failed relationships, and even deceased lovers are almost essential in forming the mindset that fuels great songwriting.
  • must live in New York City at some point - ok, so this isn’t required, but from a songwriting standpoint (and from the sheer amount of songs the city inspires), it sure helps.
  • must be respected by peers – there’s no doubt that any kid with a guitar (and any sense of musical taste) at one point has looked to Ryan as a musical role model. But to have people the caliber of Elton John and Steven King as fans and personal friends proves his validity.
  • must be hated/criticized by peers – whether its – bad reviews, show-goers shouting obscenities from the audience (ranging from requesting ‘Summer of ‘69′ to ‘turn the lights up’), or journalists saying he’s “too prolific” (wtf), a “spoiled brat”, or that he “hates his fans” – people are always going to find ways to detract what Ryan does.

(as long as we’re making Dylan comparisons, see if you can’t apply all those conditions to Bobby D as well)

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If you don’t own every one of Ryan’s albums, STOP what you’re doing right now and go get ‘em. If you can only afford a couple, start with Heartbreaker, Gold, and Cold Roses. But if you wanna get a real RA education, start with Whiskeytown’s stuff:

Ryan, along with violinist Caitlin Cary and a revolving cast of others put out two official albums (Faithless Street & Stranger’s Almanac) as Whiskeytown – a (now) critically acclaimed pioneering band in the Alt-Country scene of the 90’s. After the success of Ryan’s first solo album, Heartbreaker, Lost Highway signed Ryan and picked up Whiskeytown’s unreleased 3rd album Pneumonia. The major release of this more-polished material brought Whiskeytown the notoriety they deserved.
* i have to credit AnsweringBell.com for a lot of this info

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With that said, i can begin my mulit-post Ryan Adams Artist Spotlight.
i can’t say that there is any strict form i will adhere to, or how often i’ll get installments out, but i can promise one thing: no tracks posted will be from any of Ryan’s officially released material. There is so much cool unreleased stuff of his out there that it would be a crime just to focus on the stuff you can find at a record store. So mp3’s will either be unreleased studio cuts, or live tracks.

Because i want to jump right into my Heartbreaker review (and because i don’t have a lot of bootleg Whiskeytown material) here are just a few goodies:

mp3: Whiskeytown – A Song For You ~ from Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons (1999)

mp3: Whiskeytown – Picture of Jesus on the Dashboard ~ from The Freightwhaler Sessions

mp3: Whiskeytown – New York Angel ~ from Those Weren’t The Days

On a related note (and as mentioned here), the reissue of Whiskeytown’s Stranger’s Almanac came out today. i couldn’t find it at Hasting’s or Best Buy (although they have in their catalog), so i ordered it through Amazon ($5 cheaper than Best Buy anyway)

—-> Continue on to the Heartbreaker review….

—-> View the Ryan Adams Spotlight on one page…