February 3, 2012

11 Best Other Ryan Adams Songs


Ryan should come hang out in my kitchen. Photo by David Black.

Ryan Adams is hanging out here in Denver this weekend, snowed in and tweeting his adventures as we collectively pass the time until his postponed show – Saturday, instead of tonight. I’m not good at waiting, so I’ve decided to compose a fierce rejoinder to my friend John Hendrickson’s confidently categorized list over at the Denver Post: The 11 Best Ryan Adams Songs of the Past 11 Years.”

As a person who apparently has 648 Ryan Adams-related songs in my iTunes library, whittling it down to eleven would be like someone picking a favorite child, beer, or ice cream. It cannot be done. However, these are eleven DANG fantastic songs from Ryan Adams that you may possibly have not heard, with which I would like to reply:all to Mr. Hendrickson.

These tunes are on the rare side — most were never officially released on an Adams album, or at least not in the version here. I also love all of them ferociously. They rip a small tear in the surface to reveal the staggering depth and ability Ryan has to pen these songs by the scads, like it just ain’t no thang. Just write ‘em on up before breakfast.

Here’s to six years of collecting them, and hopefully maybe seeing at least one live tomorrow night. Been a long time coming, this show.

11 BEST “OTHER” RYAN ADAMS SONGS

Ghost (demo)
From the Cowboy Technical Sessions, this is my number one favorite Ryan Adams rarity. A raw alt-country gem, this always gets from the opening crisp smack of the drums to the way his voice cracks as he pleads, “I wanted you and I lost.” Six words that say so damn much.

Hard Way To Fall (live in Tilburg, 12/1/02)
I got this from a collection we call ‘Black Clouds’ in nerd fan land, and a more ornate version later appeared on 2005′s Jacksonville City Nights. But this one, oh this one stops me in my tracks. It is a naked, grey, stunning song on the night of its very first live performance. I can hear that aching space, the void in this song. It’s a hard thing to love anyone, anyhow.

Monday Night
This one was on the Bloodshot Records compilation Down To The Promised Land, and it makes me just want to roll through your fingers, dusty and loose. Recorded easy in an 8th Street NYC apartment, it’s as good as anything he’s released officially (like all of these).

The Bar Is A Beautiful Place
If you bought one of the first runs of Gold, you got this song as one of five on the “bonus” disc. My go-to song of choice for a particularly heady and confusing period in my life, from the opening piano chords I feel dizzy. The night is so young. This song cracks it wide open for me every time.

Hey Mrs. Lovely
This song first popped up live in 1999, and was recorded in Nashville in 2000 during the Destroyer sessions — a meandering little jewel of a song about an off-limits married woman that’s always made me smile (“and we started playing twister with our tongues / we probably should have scrapped the game and gave ourselves some hugs”). Ryan reinvented it with different lyrics on 2007′s Easy Tiger as the song “These Girls,” but this one sticks with me so much more.

Halloween
The tinkly piano cadence in this song reminds me in the best way of “She’s A Rainbow” by The Rolling Stones, in that same slightly-off jangle effect. Released only in the UK as a bonus track to Vol. 1 of the Love Is Hell EP, it shows the lithe and playful vocabulary of our protagonist in one of my favorite outings.

The Battle (Caitlin Cary)
This song is a live favorite from the Whiskeytown days, officially released on Caitlin Cary’s 2002 record While You Weren’t Looking. It is essentially perfect – strong, sure, sad. I am not sure if Ryan wrote it, Caitlin wrote it, or if it was a collaboration, but I do know it brought me at least one bartender friend when it came on in a favorite local spot and I demanded to know whose iPod it was hooked up to the speakers. Because I want to be friends with that guy.

When The Music Don’t Come
There’s the opening count-off yell across the room in the studio, and then those bluesy chords start in with a swagger and Ryan is off running, his voice in marvelous form here. Almost like the upbeat book-end to my beloved “Hotel Chelsea Nights” (from the same sessions), this song is where the freedom comes and the lightning clouds lift.

Avalanche
This one is easy to find, sitting there solidly as track 9 on my favorite of all the Ryan Adams albums, the sad-bastard gut-punch perfection of Love Is Hell. It was also the first Ryan Adams song I ever heard. My reaction was instant and visceral; I yelled profanity at my car stereo as I sat there parked in the growing twilight outside my old office, under elm trees, spinning a borrowed CD. There’s this beautiful hesitation in the piano chords that makes this whole song sound uncertain to me. It found me at the perfect time.

Mega-Superior Gold
This blaze of a song sounds terrific always and forever driving down the wide stretches of California summer highway — a confident tune from the Pinkheart Sessions that is, as it claims, cocked & loaded-ready. I’d also say it is a good song to listen to while getting ready for a date, except for the brilliantly-spat line, “able to do as I’m told, babe,” because I don’t like being told what to do.

Awww shit … Look who got a website
Ripped from the auto-play music that soundtracked Ryan’s site redesign in 2006-ish, this remains sublimely lasers-all-the-time brilliant. It also talks about Ancient Sumerians a lot, and explains to us how his website is updated by witches. I love you, Ryan.

Point, set, match, Denver Post.

ZIP: 11 BEST “OTHER” RYAN ADAMS SONGS

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21 Comments »

  • Ahahaha! Thrilled to see “Aw, shit” made the list! The expression “looks who’s got a website!” has been part of the vernacular of our household since then, often used apropos of nothing…

    Enjoy the show and the snow!

    Rebecca — February 4, 2012 @ 7:11 am

  • You’re usually right and you’ve introduced me to a lot of bands that I now love, but I’ve never been able to get into Ryan Adams for some reason. I’ll give these a shot and see if they convert me!

    Nick — February 4, 2012 @ 8:00 am

  • Thanks for this. As a big, but not quite obsessive, Ryan Adams fan, it’s easy to get lost in the massive amount of tracks he has floating around — both official and unofficial. It’s nice to have a guide to the best of what’s out there on the periphery.

    The Dilemma — February 4, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  • Hard not love RA, if for nothing else his sheer artistic output is wonderful when you’re a fan. It’s good to see him riding a critical high these days.

    Have you ever heard “Learn to Love”? It was a “secret song” off his website years ago. It was around the time of the first Cardinals record. There was this one page of the website with an illustration as the background and all of these bottles that you had to click to knock over. When you clicked about a hundred of them, suddenly you were directed to a page with “Learn to Love” on it. A beautiful beautiful song.

    Big Gregg — February 4, 2012 @ 11:42 am

  • Great list, and I love your description of Avalanche. Was my first DRA song too. Can’t wait for the show tonight! Have a great time!

    Annie H — February 4, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

  • Thanks for the list. I saw Ryan, with Jason Isabel opening in St. Louis on Tuesday. Just Ryan, no back up band. It was at a new theater (old refurb) theater in St. Louis. Great sound. Big house, but felt like intimate show. Last time I saw him was with the Cardinals, hard rocking, this was such a contrast….in a good way. Ryan had a great set list, new stuff with just enough old favorites to keep everyone happy. Hope the Denver show was cool too.

    Kevin — February 4, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  • Some okay choices there – no true revelations on the list but also not eye rollingly bad like the Denver Post list – worth mentioning that “on the rare side” most are not (at least not to someone with 1137 Ryan Adams songs on his ipod – but whose counting :)). Whether its his recent arsenal of Heavy Metal covers by Iron Maiden, Ratt, or Bob Mould – or all the recent PaxAm Riffage material – or his uncredited collaborations with artist like Jesse Malin and Beth Orton – he has, in the past year, re-cemented his titled as the most “prolific” singer/songwriter around – making the task of constructing such a list as daunting as ever.

    With that said: two flagrant and gross oversights are the ommission of the songs “Lighthouses” off the Elizabethtown sessions recordings and the rarely played opus “Shadowlands” from his Whiskeytown days. Then of course there is “I Still Miss Someone” off the Vinyl edition only of Jacksonvile City Lights – surely indisputably list worthy. Those three were head scratching ommissions any reasonable, devoted and longtime Ryan Adams fans would be quick to point out – but the one that had me stop scratching my head and start banging it against he wall is ‘Dreamings Free/I’m Alright Today’.

    The Denver Post is such an easily dismissable list – but without an ounce of evil spirit or condensation – i really expected more from you – especially given how sure of yourself you were with your little tennis reference at the end. In my 36 years – I’ve found that life humbles you right at the precise time that you think you have it all figured out – theres always someone bigger, or stronger, or richer, or smarter, or possessing more Ryan Adams rarities and b-sides – just one of those things.

    Cat
    New York City

    Cat Popper — February 4, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

  • Vividly remember the Hey There Mrs. Lovely from the Tractor Tavern on Valentine’s Day 2000. Probably weren’t 75 people in the room. Stunning. Saw the very first Come Pick Me Up that night too. What a show.

    TW — February 4, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

  • you’ve sent me back to relisten to a number of tracks i haven’t listened to in some time. Hey There Mrs. Lovely is one of my favorites and it, along with The Battle always make my mix list when passing good tunes on to others. thanks for reminding me to revisit some other old tunes.

    I do love Dear Chicago and Dreaming’s Free/I’m Alright Today, as well as the Suicide Handbook version of La Cienega Just Smiled… sooooo many great tunes.

    Recently saw Ryan in Seattle at the symphony hall and it was a super concert. hope denver is as good!

    pvz — February 4, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

  • it’s funny, i used to like ryan back in the day (over 10 yrs ago) when his music (and himself) sounded honest, authentic and raw (for lack of better word) and he would get up on stage unassuming and afraid of everyone including himself. now his music sounds forced, contrived a bit, and he himself is pretentious. hope he meets your expectations… that tends to happen when we will something.

    V — February 4, 2012 @ 10:57 pm

  • [...] a magnificent mix of deep Ryan Adams cuts? Good, cause Heather over at Fuel/Friends made you one. You’ll want to go download that [...]

    Monday Links | songsfortheday — February 6, 2012 @ 8:11 am

  • Awesome list. A couple of my favorites come to mind:

    Beth Orton cover, “sweetest decline” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMagI_8OeJI

    Or, the “I am a stranger” acoustic

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNlasgCQYn0&feature=related

    Scott — February 6, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

  • Oh My God, this version of Hard Way to Fall…..

    Scott — February 6, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

  • Moved to comment by the sheer knobishness of Cat. Press on you tonsil!

    Poncey — February 7, 2012 @ 2:19 am

  • And this is why I love the Internet, and your site, and RA. Monday Night has been a mixtape secret weapon for years, thanks for sharing all this, you are the best!

    Jon — February 20, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

  • Oh yeah, I wanted to second the douche-baggery of that Cat comment, yikes, get your own site and open yourself up to shallow self-serving criticism from lonely jack-holes like yourself or shut the f-up. You could call it http://www.1137rabsidesthatdonotkeepmewarmatnight.ass, get on it, I’m looking forward to not caring about it. Thanks again, Heather!

    Jon — February 25, 2012 @ 8:28 am

  • [...] Circus Kansas CityThe Last Stop in NYCPastry Chef Sherry YardBroadway.tv Blogtravel11 Best Other Ryan Adams Songs [...]

    Rainbow Room Nyc | Silver Gate Pictures — March 9, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  • Even though you posted this awhile ago, I had to come back because I’ve had so much fun listening to your Ryan Adams choices. I’d never heard Bar is a Beautiful Place and I can’t get enough of his voice in that one. Thanks so much.

    Frog — March 22, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

  • just came back to list today for some great tunage, and read Cat’s diatribe….LO-fucking-L. whata joke!. keep bringing the goods fuel/friends. love ya.

    Scott — May 5, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

  • You know, just a thought I’d add: you ask any 10 true hard-core ryan fans their favorite songs, and you’ll get 10 incredible, but completely different, wildly divergent answers. Not many other musicians you could ever say that about. Perhaps that is the ultimate testament to his artistic worth. Sometimes i think he could just sing the dictionary and it’d be emotionally resonant. My favorites change by the day/week/year; ultimately, whatever is playing is best. A fluid catalog like no other.

    Scott — May 5, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

  • the whole album 48 Hrs should be on here

    tim — January 22, 2014 @ 7:01 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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