Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker

5.0 5
by Ryan Adams
     
 

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While Whiskeytown's third album languishes in record-company limbo, the band's frontman and songwriter, Ryan Adams, has some other stories to tell. Adams lost a lover while he was living in New York City, and he confronts his loneliness and frustration on Heartbreaker. Avoiding the raucous side of Whiskeytown in favor of a moreSee more details below

Overview

While Whiskeytown's third album languishes in record-company limbo, the band's frontman and songwriter, Ryan Adams, has some other stories to tell. Adams lost a lover while he was living in New York City, and he confronts his loneliness and frustration on Heartbreaker. Avoiding the raucous side of Whiskeytown in favor of a more introspective approach, Adams has assembled a stripped-down combo featuring Gillian Welch and David Rawlings for a cycle of intimate, primarily acoustic ballads. The songs carry an aura of being alone in a hotel room far from home, late at night, and knowing that the one you want to call doesn't want to hear from you. The female harmonies -- most of them by Welch but with cameos from Emmylou Harris (who works her usual magic on the homesick meditation "Oh My Sweet Carolina"), Kim Richey, and Allison Pierce -- amplify the album's yearning, heartbroken vibe. It's not all sad banjos and acoustic guitars, though: Adams and friends let loose convincingly on "To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high)," which recalls Bob Dylan and The Band's most rollicking moments, and the rockabilly murder ballad "Shakedown on 9th Street." Sly Dylan allusions abound, most directly in the cadence of "Damn, Sam (I love a woman that rains)," but that's just Adams playing with history. He also tweaks his roots on "Don't Ask for the Water," which crosses William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water (Until Your Well Runs Dry)" with Howlin' Wolf's "I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)," and ebbs and flows achingly between hopeless attraction and vindictive repulsion. More than just an indie stopgap between his band's higher-profile releases, Heartbreaker is a lonely, low-key gem.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
As Whiskeytown finally ground to a halt in the wake of an astonishing number of personal changes following Faithless Street (coupled with record company problems that kept their final album, Pneumonia, from reaching stores until two years after it was recorded), Ryan Adams ducked into a Nashville studio for two weeks of sessions with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. While arch traditionalists Welch and Rawlings would hardly seem like a likely match for alt-country's bad boy, the collaboration brought out the best in Adams; Heartbreaker is loose, open, and heartfelt in a way Whiskeytown's admittedly fine albums never were, and makes as strong a case for Adams' gifts as anything his band ever released. With the exception of the Stones-flavored "Shakedown on 9th Street" and the swaggering "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)," Heartbreaker leaves rock & roll on the shelf in favor of a sound that blends low-key folk-rock with a rootsy, bluegrass-accented undertow, and while the album's production and arrangements are subtle and spare, they make up in emotional impact whatever they lack in volume. As a songwriter, Adams concerns himself with the ups and downs of romance rather than the post-teenage angst that dominated Whiskeytown's work, and "My Winding Wheel" and "Damn, Sam (I Love a Woman That Rains)" are warmly optimistic in a way he's rarely been before, while "Come Pick Me Up" shows he's still eloquently in touch with heartbreak. Adams has always been a strong vocalist, but his duet with Emmylou Harris on "Oh My Sweet Carolina" may well be his finest hour as a singer, and the stripped-back sound of these sessions allows him to explore the nooks and crannies of his voice, and the results are pleasing. Whiskeytown fans who loved the "Replacements-go-twang" crunch of "Drank Like a River" and "Yesterday's News" might have a hard time warming up to Heartbreaker, but the strength of the material and the performances suggest Adams is finally gaining some much-needed maturity, and his music is all the better for it.
Entertainment Weekly - James Sullivan
Whiskeytown’s Adams is a brash, alt-country balladeer with a rock instinct.

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Product Details

Release Date:
09/05/2000
Label:
Bloodshot Records
UPC:
0744302007120
catalogNumber:
20071

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ryan Adams   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Harmonica,Piano,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Emmylou Harris   Vocals
Ethan Johns   Bass,Drums,Glockenspiel,Hammond Organ,Vibes,chamberlain,Musician
Kim Richey   Vocals
Gillian Welch   Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Electric Bass,Bass Guitar,Vocals,Voices
David Rawlings   Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Electric Guitar,Tambourine,Vocals
Allison Pierce   Vocals
Pat Sansone   Organ,Piano,Background Vocals,chamberlain
Allison Pearce   Vocals

Technical Credits

Ethan Johns   Producer,Engineer
Vanessa Alston   Composer
Shawn R. Britton   Mastering
Tony Monaco   Graphic Design
Ethan Jones   Audio Production

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