Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ryan Adams - Gold

Ryan Adams - Gold
Published in 2001

First off, let's all thank Will for his album suggestion. He's good people. 

I'll be the first to admit that I have a have blind spot in my musical knowledge. I'm not the only one, and I certainly try to have a diverse taste in music, but country has largely remained a mystery to me. 

I think the reasons for this are a little interesting, so let's talk about it. First off, in my life time, country music has become a bastion of a certain kind of politics that I personally find distasteful. It's a shame that this even enters into the equasion, but popular country has seemed very right wing, and that rubs me the wrong way. This is not a deal breaker for me, obviously, because the gender and sexual politics of hip hop has not prevented me from finding great appreciation. 

Second, there is a deep undercurrent of religious subtext and overt text in country that doesn't appeal to me, mainly the overt stuff.  However, this is something that many of my favorite artist have that I don't and it isn't the end either. 

Thirdly, in mind and to my ear, it all sounds kind of samey. It just doesn't pull me in at all, and the structures all sound the same. I have gotten into bluegrass, folk, and everything that lives around country, but country is still a frontier for me.

Finally, there is an element of looking down from both sides involved. I think all of the above things somewhat strongly, and think those who write songs about the attractive qualities of farm equipment or putting footwear in the posterior of other human beings as if it is our countries sole contribution to the world are not using their songwriting ability to their highest potential. Then, they call me a liberal elitist snob who doesn't know anything from their giant piles of money, so they at least have the height on their side. It's a contentious relationship.    

This album might be my way in. Maybe. I'm definately a Ryan Adams fan now, so that means that I am into at least one country(ish) artist, but I cannot tell how representative he is of the whole of country music. I simply have not heard country music like this before. 

Will specifically asked me to talk about the second half of the album, so that is what I am going to focus more on, but the beginning of this album is a hit parade. The songs are well performed, massively open, and they are very inclusive. I quite enjoy the first half of this album, but it is obviously the easier side to like. 

The second half of this album is amazing. It's well written, smart, funny and engaging. It's a complex work written by someone who obviously has not pidgeonholed himself into one kind of music. 

If I were to single out a favorite song on the album, I would have to say that Sylvia Plath is far and away my favorite. It's a wildly quiet, with hints of humor and genuine emotion behind it.  It's one of those b sides that yu stumble across and are completely absorbed by. I'm happy to have this album on my iPod just for that song. 

The album is beautifully produced, and doesn't fall into the trap that many fall into of trying to sound a certain way. Some tracks are pure rock, some are ballads and some are more traditional country style songs, but they are wide open.

They're also smart. Just really smart songs. They have an elegance you rarely hear, and that is independent of any other consideration.

This is a great album, you should listen to it right now. Get on it, boys and girls.  Thanks again Will! 

"But enough of my yapping, let's boogie."

PS: Check out some of the blogs up and to the right. Comment, and tell me more albums. 

PPS. I love Johnny Cash, so any complaints must be filed with that in mind.    

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