Ten Great Ryan Adams Songs for Your iPod
Ryan Adams is one of the most underrated, prolific, talented, and versatile musical artists that has come along in the last 20 years. He is typically given the alt-country label but he has dabbled in many different genres over the years from country, to rock, to folk, and even heavy metal. You probably are familiar with his music even if you don't know him by name since one of his songs was featured prominently at the beginning of the movie Old School. He also appeared in a Gap television commercial with Willie Nelson and made a cameo singing at the end of the 2012 Judd Apatow movie This Is 40. Ryan retired from recording after marrying actress Mandy Moore in 2009, but thankfully he returned to the music scene with the album Ashes & Fire in 2011. He has released so much great music since his first solo album in 2000 that this list could easily contain 50 songs. However, I will keep it to only 10 of my favorites. They are a mix of well known hits along with a some more obscure numbers. If you haven't heard his music before I urge you to take a listen. It will be well worth the effort.
10) Ashes & Fire
This was just released in 2011 after Ryan's short retirement from making music after he married Mandy Moore and it shows that he didn't lose anything during the time off. It has a chugging feel reminiscent of classic songs from The Band with a banging piano dueling with a guitar. Hopefully this is a sign of more to come as Ryan can be very prolific with his writing and recording once he gets on a roll.
9) Tears of Gold
This bittersweet song about getting older, death, and the redemptive love of family has a classic country steel guitar intro. I love the sing along lines when the rest of the band joins in on certain parts. You can also hear a banjo rise up occasionally which adds nice feel to it. It was released on his 2007 Easy Tiger album.
8) When the Stars Go Blue
No list of Ryan Adams songs would be complete without this one. Maybe his most popular song due to cover versions by Tim McGraw and Bono. It has a gentle opening with Ryan singing by himself then he's joined by female backing singer. If you haven't heard Ryan's version you need to check it out.
7) To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
This is a rollicking throwback to rockabilly with a gritty Ryan vocal and swinging sound and nice guitar picking. I love how it builds to the bridge, when the music quiets down only to ratchet up again for the end. This came out on Ryan's first solo album Heartbreaker and is featured at the beginning of the film Old School.
This comes from Ryan's more polished Easy Tiger album from 2007. It's a slower song about needing two pills instead of one to get the same high. Ryan was struggling with addiction problems before this album came out. Nice steel guitar and piano help fill the background. Sheryl Crow also adds backing vocals. You can see Ryan performing the song on Letterman by clicking on the video link above.
From his 2002 album Demolition. This has one of my favorite Ryan vocals, especially the way he sings the first four lines. It starts with a harmonica solo and builds with organ and steel guitar, then background singers join in around the 1:50 mark which leads to a steel guitar bridge. This song is very infectious and is hard to get out of your head once you get hooked.
4) A Kiss Before I Go
Way too short at only 2:07 minutes long. This one has the feel of a classic, steel guitar driven country song. Background vocals and piano also add nice touches. Released on his 2005 album Jacksonville City Nights with the Cardinals.
3) My Winding Wheel
Released on his 2000 solo debut album Heartbreaker, this song has a rough, urgent feel that builds to a crescendo of Ryan's vocal mixed with strumming acoustic guitar at the end. It's also underpinned by nice acoustic guitar picking. You can hear the song by clicking here.
2) Let it Ride
"Let It Ride" is one of Ryan's faster song. It came out on the 2005 album Cold Roses with The Cardinals. This will help get you through rush hour traffic or the last few minutes of your workout. It opens with charging steel guitars and doesn't let up until it's over. It's fueled by steel guitars, piano, and killer Duane Eddy-like guitar runs. This was almost first on the list but just fell a little short.
1) Magnolia Mountain
"Magnolia Mountain" is my favorite Ryan song and is his masterpiece. It was also released on the Cold Roses album with his backing band The Cardinals. It is a lengthy song at 5:53 but it goes by quickly. It starts with an acoustic guitar intro that merges into Ryan singing and a grinding electric guitar. The tension of the song builds to a clashing guitar section just after the 3 minute mark that leads to a brief interlude with just Ryan singing for a few seconds. It doesn't get any better this this.