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The Bells’ Toll on Rock ‘n’ Roll: Meet Ryan Adams: A six song introduction

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Kady Bell, Web Editor

Kady Bell, Web Editor

Jessica Bell, Arts Editor

Jessica Bell, Arts Editor

“You can’t hang on to something that won’t stop moving.’
–Ryan Adams

Please allow us to introduce Ryan Adams, a man of musical wealth and taste.

A disappointment to alt-country sticklers, this blue-eyed babe bred in Jacksonville, N.C., hitch-hiked his way out of Whiskeytown at the turn of the millennium; jumping genres like trains and making pit-stops in Dylanland, Buckleyville and Sinatra Country en route to a heartbreakingly successful solo career.

Critical fans have needlessly attacked his prolific hand; mocking mass-produced material, as if he claimed the Midas’ touch, turning all scribbled songs to “gold,” but we have eagerly purchased and devoured every offering.

For Ryan out loud, we just cannot stop loving Mr. Adams and when we say L-U-V, you better believe us, L-U-V.

It is a hard thing to love anyone anyhow, but he will inevitably be encountered on the long road to the middle of musical consciousness.
And rock ‘n’ roll lessons are the nature of our game.

So if Adams is a stranger to record collections far and wide, let us take a six-tune opportunity to highlight the songbird’s continuing contributions.

Note to readers: Go buy.

• “Call Me on Your Way Back Home”

Burned by Whiskeytown and an old flame, Adams took refuge in an emotionally-charged single affair, debuting “Heartbreaker” and instigating a rock ‘n’ roll shakedown.

Foreshadowing persistently progressive musical roles, the critically acclaimed album tackles Dylan methodologies via depth, soul and classic narrative form.

Opening on a long sullen moan, Adams finds himself questioning the irony of love-induced misery in “Call Me on Your Way Back Home.”

The song follows an overall theme of breakup blues, complete with rhythmic harmonica wailings and punk-infused electric licks.

And “damn, Sam,” we love a man who rains.

• “This House is Not for Sale”

Comparable to any solid Jeff Buckley or Replacements’ effort, “Love is Hell,” released alongside “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” combines several tearjerkers with classic rock riffraff, while skimming British terrain.

Chronicles of drunken comas, prayers for rain, hotel Chelsea nights and mean English girls round out this anti-love collection, confirming Adams still sees monsters.

After all, he is in “the twilight of his youth, not that he is going to remember.”

Unready to face life after the divide, Adams metaphorically brands his woman and home “sold” in “This House is Not for Sale.”

Seemingly realizing that both were merely on lease, he romanticizes about fading out in a dance of devotion, building a lovers’ scrapbook through song.

Does anybody want to take him home?

• “How Do You Keep Love Alive”

Exploring a Jacksonville past, Adams teams up with the Cardinals for plenty of rose-colored sunsets on “Cold Roses,” creating alt-country magic down Magnolia Mountain.

Country influences seize the style reins of this dual-disc collection, following the more alternative-folk based vibes of “Gold,” “Demolition” and “Love is Hell.”

Spinning like a live recording, “Cold Roses” resumes his investigation of relationship shortcomings, uncovering a dotted past of dismantled trysts, splitsville clichés and the indefinite journeys of a rolling stone.

Oh, our souls, Ryan knows what it means to be sad.

“How Do You Keep Love Alive” runs through veins like a long black river, infusing piano, tambourine and coarse vocals into a heavenly mix of Tennessee-honeyed comfort, while encouraging bouts of all-night dancing.

As Adams says, “dance all night, you’ll be alright.”

• “If I Am a Stranger”

No one should be a stranger to Adam’s cusp-of-stardom range, whether covering the pitfalls of loneliness and Southern-reared poverty or love’s intricacies, perhaps learned after one-too-many hotel nights spent in mourning.

Proving love is no easy plateau on “Cold Roses,” disc two, Adams lets piano and acoustic guitar ride high in “If I Am a Stranger,” boldly confronting the hardships of genuine intimacy.

Subsequently tangled in the darkness of doubt, he asks, “if all this love is real, how will we know, and if we’re only scared of losing it, how will it last?”

But don’t worry about Adams, bad nights lead to better days. Just “let it ride” to the nearest record store.

• “The Hardest Part”

“Jacksonville City Nights,” one of three musical projects released in 2005, traces Adam’s perpetual state of “lucky in life, not in love” misfortune.

Leaning on country influences and down-home sentiment, he pairs up with the Cardinals once again, searching for a “peaceful song to sing when everything goes wrong.”

“The Hardest Part,” seemingly stemming from “penny-stretching” memories, honors every man “working hard for every little bit he’s got” out of pure fatherly love.

In a brilliant rant of Morrissey-tinged cynicism and Paul Westerberg-esque irony, perhaps a result of dyslexic heart syndrome, Adam croons “I’ve been turned around, I’ve been mystified by true love and that ain’t the hardest part.”

Our Ryan is waiting for you to come pick him up.

• “29”

Having already stolen many a fan’s soul and faith, Adams released “29,” minus the Cardinals, in 2006, following a back-to-basics approach.

A million times quicker than the modern rocker, his ever-evolving nature will undoubtedly continue to shake up the rock ‘n’ roll scene, hopefully “into the future and out of the past,” with “Easy Tiger” in June.

We cannot make you love him, but we hope you no longer have to guess his name.

Believe us; just one song will have you feeling sympathy for the devil.

Jessica Bell, a senior communications major, is arts editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at

Kady Bell, a senior communications major, is web editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at

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