Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Next Neil Young

Neil Young is arguably the greatest North American songwriter of all time. In 2002 Paste Magazine ranked Young #2 on the list of "Greatest Songwriters of All Time" - merely a hair behind Bob Dylan. He has been inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame - twice! From Buffalo Springfield to CSNY to Crazy Horse and many others, Neil Young and 'Old Black' have contributed a lifetime's work to the world of song and lyric. Even so, all legacies must come to a close. Although Young's career is not over, his achievements have in many ways been solidified in music history so that his role in this grand opera seems to have been fulfilled. With the loss of such a pioneer, there are some boots to be filled.

My friend is obsessed with Ryan Adams. He spends his hours at work networking Ryan Adams forums and befriending fans from across the globe. Just the other day he received a bootleg recording of a show from a fellow fan; it was postmarked from the Netherlands. It never ceases to amaze me every time my friend has a new album or song to show me; or a new story about this singer/songwriter; or tickets to another show. He loves Ryan Adams.

Of course he is not alone. There are millions of other fans out there who like the art that this man is creating. But my friend, well, I consider him a credible judge of music. You see, my friend was raised on the hands-down, critically acclaimed, "good" music. He was listening to Dylan/Beatles/Hendrix/CSNY mix tapes on his way to school in 7th grade while the rest of us were listening to Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumkins. He introduced me to Herbie Hancock's "Headhunters" in 10th grade when I thought Herbe Hancock was a ficticious character from some novel or movie. So when it comes to the artful critique of music, I trust him.

In the fall of 2003 my friend approached me with an album called "Heartbreaker" by Ryan Adams. He said I must listen to it, so I did. Once again his musical taste confirmed my trust. It was an honest album. It had a way of catching you that didn't seem dirty or fraudulent. It was just plain and simple songwriting. Nothing ever overdone nor underdone. Over the years I have faithfully admired "Gold" and "Love is Hell" and "Demolition" and "Rock n Roll" and "Cold Roses" and "Jacksonville City Nights" and "29," as well as various unreleased, live, and miscellaneous works.

At 33, Ryan Adams is currently releasing his tenth studio album, "Easy Tiger." Not included in this library are the multiple albums Adams released with his first band, "Whiskeytown." He has also produced for the likes of Willie Nelson as well as backed Nelson on recent tours. His songwriting accomplishments need no embellshment, it is obvious that Adams has found his vocation.

Like Neil Young, Adams is a pure writer. He can tell a story. He can break your heart. He can fire you up. He can put you to sleep. And every time you hear a song you know that it is exactly the way it should be. Nothing missing. Nothing to be removed. It is pure Goldilocks perfection. And, like Young, I would like to believe that Adams is at the "Zuma" stage of his career; which, if you know Neil Young, then you know that there is plenty of Ryan Adams to come.


  1. No. 2 on the list AFTER Dylan. Now come on Josh, that would make Neil Young the SECOND greatest North American songwriter of all time. Love Prairie Wind, which I heard only last week. After the Goldrush and On the Beach are also favourites of mine. Harvest - well, that goes without saying (oops I said it). Must check out Adams some time.

  2. Glen, you should check out Jacksonville City Nights first. I think that will suit you very well. Cheers.

  3. i hate this ryan adams character. i recently went to see him in concert and he didnt play "come pick me up" OR "new york, new york"! he's so full of himself!