Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker (Deluxe Reissue)

Powerful outtakes and soul-searching demos add even greater power to Ryan Adams' iconic debut.
Ryan Adams
Heartbreaker (Deluxe Reissue)
Pax Americana

In the year 2000, singer, songwriter, and all-round innovation alt-cowboy Ryan Adams departed Whiskeytown on a runaway train to solo success. The enigmatic Adams would go on, alongside Wilco and other alt-country staples, to popularize the genre. On the way, Adams gained some notoriety for his controversial antics. Indeed, his fiery temperament has been well documented throughout his career as a solo artist, yet the man’s talent as a prolific songwriter is irrefutable. That is, one could argue, the legend of Ryan Adams; he’s a man both flawed and differentiated by his mythical levels of passion. The power of Heartbreaker ‘s deluxe edition lies in the way it offers glimpses into the workings of that myth. We’re given a rare glimpse into the musings and idiosyncrasies of the Jacksonville native’s artistic process. And it’s incredibly exciting.

The album that introduced us to Adams’ solo stylings has been noted for its raw intimacy. The original record speaks for itself, but this intimacy is taken to completely new levels on the almost 20 extra tracks which are included here. “Everybody play for your life. Let’s just beat the shit out of this thing,” Adams says to his fellow musos in the recording studio before launching into “Petal in a Rainstorm”, one of the many energetic, full-length tracks which have been mixed to perfection on the album’s additional disc. This desire to “play for your life” speaks to Adams’ determination to hone his trade, but it also speaks to the humanity behind the musician. You’ve heard the music, but these are the attitudes, the values, and the passions that have given birth to it. In this way, the deluxe edition is as much an historical account of a vibrant musical character as it is an assortment of songs.

The “outtakes” themselves are diverse and plentiful. Some are alternate versions of a few of Adams’ most-loved classics, while others are slightly rawer versions of the finished product. Rough copies of “Oh My Sweet Carolina”, “Come Pick Me Up”, “In My Time Of Need” all appear on the record, gracefully showing the Twilight Zone between demo and finished product. If those examples aren’t gritty enough for you, a selection of very intimate demos have also been submitted for your approval. The deluxe edition is such a comprehensive one that demos of some of the outtakes that were cut from Heartbreaker ‘s original release have been included. There’s beautiful insight into the puppetry behind the album; tracks that have been previously unreleased are contemporised with those we’ve known for years.

Importantly, these demos and outtakes don’t attempt to cheat us of time spent in the studio with Adams; the vast majority are solid in length. The album doesn’t alienate those who are unfamiliar with Adams’ music, either. We’re simply being offered an extended account of Adams’ very first solo album, so it really doesn’t require much context in order to enjoy the extended edition’s nuances and passion. Whether it’s vignettes of Adams’ charisma or his unique approach to the songwriting craft, fans and newbies alike are bound to take a lot away from this revision.

RATING 7 / 10


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