Trying To Get To You

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Trying To Like Ryan Adams

Update: 6/18/07 - This article about Ryan in the New York Times did not help matters much for me.

Why don’t I give a damn about Ryan Adams?

On the surface, he’s always seemed like an artist that I would love. Earthy, somewhat rootsy but not retro – a rocker who’s obviously loved and learned from the greats, whether they be Keith Richards, Gram Parsons or Paul Westerberg. He is charismatic and committed to rock as something much more than entertainment, just like artists I love such as Pete Townshend and Bruce Springsteen.

But I just can’t seem to get into him.

I first saw Ryan play in the summer of 1995 at the Mercury Lounge when he was just starting out with Whiskeytown. I was just beginning my first A&R scouting job at Elektra Records, and I watched the show next to Seymour Stein (Whiskeytown was getting heavy attention from the A&R community). Ryan was absolutely kinetic in leading the band, and if the songs didn’t occur for me as anything too great, he seemed like a star in the making. I turned to Seymour and said, “This guy’s got it.”

But when I got the Whiskeytown albums, I listened and just kind of shrugged. And for the last ten years, every time a Ryan Adams album comes out, I get it, wait and hope to love it, and I end up shrugging once more. I’ve had people write me to tell me what I’m missing, listing songs I need to hear by him, but none of them have left any real impression. And seeing him live has been hit or miss - and with each miss, my patience with him has grown thinner.

So now I’m listening to Easy Tiger, the new Ryan Adams album, and it sounds nice, but once again, I’m left wondering if there’s something I’m missing, because this just ain’t doing a damn thing for me. It sounds lovely enough, and one song, “Halloween Head” is connecting with me, but the rest…well, as the Four Tops once sang, it’s the same old song.

Buy Easy Tiger at Amazon

Download: "Halloweenhead"

8 comments:

greg said...

HAHA. I've been trying for years to love Ryan too. But more than a song here or there, i got nothing. I saw a recent clip of him playing a new song and i swore it was a bad Grateful Dead cover band doing a bad original song.

But FWIW - his new band are great players.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same. I've tried repeatedly, but just can't stomach this phony.

Pete said...

I have to say I've shared your sentiment for a long time. I remember reading interviews with him several years ago (around Gold era) and he came across whiny and snarky. It turnedme off to him. But... he's growing on me lately. Standout track for me: "Now That You're Gone" from Cold Roses (I just saw him sing that on Austin City Limits tonight). And his Parsons cover of "A Song for You" is great too. Just got my paws on 'Easy Tiger' too, so I'm giving that a try too.

charles douglas said...

I hate Ryan Adams. Talentless clown.

Anonymous said...

Ryan Adams has gotten a pass for God knows what reason because it can't be because he has any real talent. I suspect that in his case it's about right place right time-he filled a very desperate vacuum that has now consumed him.Thank God for that. The NY Times article seems to reflect who he is and just how unlikable he is. I'm surprised that Steve Earle didn't kick his ass when their paths crossed at Electric Lady. Wait a minute, I'm getting warmed up- Ryan Adams is an example of why the record biz is dying-it invests in vacuous poseurs that they then foist upon the public as talent when truth be told-this guy is just warmed over shit that's been done better by lessor souls.
OK. I'm done, you happy, Ben?

Almost Dead said...

Wow, apparently you were preaching to the right choir. If you don't like him, you don't like him, but some of the above commenters suggest he has no talent, which is ridiculous. And I could give two shits about what kind of a person he is off the stage. What does that have to do with anything? The man is open, honest and enthusiastic about the music that moves him. He's listening to a lot of Husker Du? He makes a rock album. A lot of Patsy Cline? He makes Jacksonville City Nights. Most of us just turn that enthusiasm into a mix fucking CD. And just listen to him sing. As Ben said to his colleague, "He's got it." One fellow above suggests Adams contributes to the downfall of the music industry, but I bet you Lost Highway would strongly disagree (the profit they make from his records allows them to invest in up & coming artists). Not everything he writes is great, but his need to write it comes through every time. I hope you come around one day, though your blog proves you have plenty of great music to keep you entertained.

Ben Lazar said...

Almost Dead - thanks for the comment. It WAS getting a little too one sided in here.

Brad Deckard said...

These comments are ridiculous ... really. People here some rumor on TMZ or some shit and think they know all about the guy. Phony? I think not.

The guy is one of the best singer-songwriters of the past decade.

Worked with Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Beth Orton, Willie Nelson,

Elton John is even a fan.

A few of you need your ears checked, me thinks.

There was an error in this gadget