After the collapse of his Alt Country band Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams went into hyperspeed. In a few short years he has released 5 records and written more songs than The Offspring have written in their entire career. Each record Adams has made has been different from the last. His first, "Heartbreaker" was a moody display of his Alt Country style.
Musicians of "Heartbreaker":
Ryan Adams - Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Harmonica, Banjo
Ethan Jones - Bass, Drums, Hammond Organ, Vibraphone, Glockenspiel
Allison Harris - Vocals
David Rawlings - Guitar, Banjo, Tambourine, Vocals
Kim Richey - Vocals
Pat Sanstone - Piano, Vocals (backing), Chamberlain
Gillian Welch - Guitar, Banjo, Bass, Vocals
Emmylou Harris - Vocals
More than anything, Adams' first album is, instead of a country album, a soft, honest and emotional record. Where the album lacks in raw grit, it shows a huge emotional maturity for Adams as both a songwriter, singer and a musician. While "Heartbreaker" is a record full of incredible songs and performances, it is not without it's faults. Possibly the biggest fault of "Heartbreaker" is it's production. This problem also presents a contradiction. On one hand, the production is incredible in the way that Adams' voice shows a great emotional depth. For this, the production is perfect. The biggest problem, however, is the mixing of the vocals which are at least two times higher in the mix than anything else. The volume causes the listener to turn up the music loud to be able to hear everything, but Adams' voice can get unforgivably grating, especially in songs like "My Winding Wheel" and "Bartering Lines". With all of that said, Adams' vocal performances are amazing all throughout the record, almost without exception. His voice is really his strongest point. In his instrumental work, Adams is rather incredible, particularly in the areas of acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonica.
Lyrically, Adams makes some incredibly statements and shows maturity that was previously unseen from him. Songs like "Come Pick Me Up" and "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)" show the scope of his songwriting. which would only improve as his career developed. While his emotional arragements and lyrics are on a par with someone like Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley or Nick Drake, Adams shows a sort of bad boy attitude, which has close ties with punk rock. This has obviously not done anything to hurt his career. While he displays this attitude, with songs like "Come Pick Me Up". it's clear that there is a sensitive person inside the hard punk rock exterior. Adams' debut is a mature, heartfelt, honest and beautiful Alt Country album. Adams has taken influence from such people as Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard and has definitely come out on top as a result. Hopefully this album will one day be recognised as one of the masterpieces of Alt Country. With such a beautiful display of emotion, "Heartbreaker" is the album of Adams' career, or at least one of them.
- Incredible beauty in Adams' songwriting
- Musically and vocally unbeatable
- The production
- The production
- Some songs feel like they could have been made into more
- Instruments need to be mixed higher in the soft songs
To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
Call Me On Your Way Back Home
Come Pick Me Up
FINAL RATING: 4/5