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Ryan Adams – Wednesdays

June 7, 2021

Ryan Adams has been one of my top 10 recording artists since I discovered Whiskeytown on the endcap of Target in the summer of 1997 – so nearly a quarter of century – more than half of my adult life. I listened to Demolition on repeat burying my mother. My daughter and I sang along to “When Stars Go Blue” when I drove her to and from dance class and it was her first concert (we saw many more together). We reprised “When Stars Go Blue” for the father/daughter dance at her wedding. I was a fan of Ryan Adams.

In 2019 a scandal broke: seven women (including Phoebe Bridgers and Ryan’s ex-wife Mandy Moore) came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against him, including exchanging sexually explicit photographs with an underage fan. Shit – I always assumed he was an asshole, but a sexual predator – that took the air out of my fandom – dare I say it broke my fanboy heart.

2019 was going to be a big year for Adams – three albums were to be released. But the scandal put the kibosh on that. The FBI investigation into the underage claims was closed in the fall of 2019 without Adams being charged, but the stuff with the adult women is pretty undeniable. It was going to be hard to continue to be a fan.

Adams went silent. As best I know Adams didn’t address the accusations against him directly, but he eventually posted on Instagram:

“Believe Women. Believe Truth. But never give up on being part of solutions, and healing. I’ve lost friends who have passed away in this time of self reflection and silence. I can’t be like that. There’s been too much that mattered.”

Not much of an apology. He kept a low profile for awhile. Like a lot of musicians he posted lots of cool solo at-home performances during lockdown. In December 2020, Adams surprise-released one of the planned 2019 albums: Wednesdays.

Was it time to forgive and become a fan again? The album was first released on streaming services and wouldn’t be released physical for several months – so I wasn’t tempted to pay him. I gave it a few listens and it didn’t move me – not sure if it was the music or my attitude towards Adams.

Several months have passed since its release and I am ready to give Wednesdays another chance. It is now available on vinyl and I need to make a decision: am I in or out on Ryan Adams?

Listening to it with forgiving ears I am a struck by how quiet and unassuming an album it is, but there is something there. I like the album enough and have warmed up to a post scandal Adams that I recently bought the vinyl.

Although it was created pre-scandal, it seems to me like the right collection of songs at the right time. Allmusic was not so kind:

“With their spare arrangements and threadbare melodies, the songs collectively create an impression of a singer/songwriter who feels quite sorry for himself, but not necessarily sorry for anything he may or may not have done.”

Ouch.

This is one sad album. Adams morns loss after loss: romances, friendships, death, etc. Despite the downer themes, the album is not a downer because of the beauty of the music. The songs are gorgeously arranged. There are no innovations here, just classic Americana Ryan Adams: strumming acoustic guitars, Dylanesque organ fills (courtesy of Benmont” Tench), Emmylou Harris backing vocals, tasteful strings, a little pedal steel, harmonica, etc. I assume Don Was’ production brought out the best in Adams – the recording sounds great.

Wednesdays is not an Adams masterpiece, but still a very good album. I am ready to get back into Ryan Adams (Big Colors is scheduled for June 11, 2021).

From → Music Reviews

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  1. Ryan Adams – Big Colors | Axl's Catch Groove

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