Adventures of a University Finalist

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Last Exit To Jacksonville


Ryan Adams - The Heartbreaker Sessions (Bootleg)

Ryan Adams - Win
Ryan Adams - Caroline
Ryan Adams - Talkin' In My Sleep
Ryan Adams - West NY Serenade

To apologise for my infrequent missives of late and to continue the celebrations of last week, I thought that today I'd offer up a private treat. Around two years ago, I was severely addicted to CD bargains on eBay from the first Orange Peels LP to Sparks in their 90s intellectual techno . Amongst the purchases made during this affluent period in my life were a small collection of Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown bootlegs. Some were terrible (the inaudible quality of his 'Rock n' Roll' Tour performance in Manchester) but, more often or not, most were brilliant with the intimacy of 'Live At Foley's Cellar' and the rawness of these recordings during the sessions for his first solo album, 'Heartbreaker'. These particular sessions were stretched across 2 CDs (with only one song repeated under different names) and include measured takes on Pneumonia era Whiskeytown classics such as 'Sit and Listen to the Rain', 'Don't Wanna Know Why', and 'Bar Lights' along with unreleased gems. Whereas a lot of his material recorded with the Pinkhearts would resurface on 'Demolition' that's not the case with these beauties which is a shame for they're gathered from a particularly purple patch for Adams creatively.
'Win' is an anomaly to say the least due to its sounding more in line with his 'Rock n' Roll' era material than the more rootsy trappings of Whiskeytown. It really wouldn't sound out of place next to the likes of 'Luminol' and 'Is This It' which is probably the main reason behind it's being left on the cutting room floor. However, as a closet fan of 'Rock n' Roll', I'm a big fan of the tune as Adams clearly possesses a heart made up of melody and driving rhythm entwined in feedback capable of overriding his head. 'West NY Serenade', on the other hand, steps backward toward a Pneumonia vibe with its plaintive guitar line echoing off walls as the drums snap along the train track beat. It's the E Street Shuffle without the ostentatious wordplay or the flirtation with disaster. It's warm, comforting and safe; a space that Adams used to show a marked ability to occupy successfully.
'Talkin' In My Sleep' is a little more daring with a fuller arrangement including the bass being elevated in the mix, acoustic melding with electric, and an organ introduced to fill out the gaps left so obvious before. Adams' vocal performance is more commanding pushing toward a Dylanesque rant without becoming a mewling bore. Caitlin Cary (or someone doing an excellent substitute role) makes an appearance on backing vocals too which is a delight as you can surely guess. 'Caroline' begins almost identically to 'Ballad of Carol Lynn', the opening track on Pneumonia, but don't let that fool you. They are completely different songs except the fact that both are burdened with similar overall aesthetics. The sustained presence of a violin is found in both as is the same meandering rhythm. However, 'Ballad of Carol Lynn' never even attempted the beautiful harmonies displayed during 'Caroline's intro and chorus. The lyric is kept to a rather minimal structure and the acoustic solo is outstanding only in the sense of its ramshackle nature but this simply adds to its mantric charm. By the end, Adams has reached a Van Morrison ability to stretch monosyllabic words until they take on a new meaning and, ultimately, take on a religious reverence. Two different roads converging at the same point of non-verbal eloquence. In other words, it's a shimmering beauty almost akin to a simplified, downbeat ' Madame George'.
Sadly, the seller who offered up these has since left eBay's roster so all that there is left to do is to point you in the direction of the masterpiece that is 'Pneumonia' for more of the eclectic Mr Adams (I never liked 'Heartbreaker' as much).

Buy - Whiskeytown - Pneumonia
Buy - Ryan's latest effort 'Jacksonville City Nights'