Heartbreaker, by Ryan Adams
Suggested by Matt Smith
If you type “Heartbreaker” into Google, the first hit is Mariah Carey.
The second? Dionne Warwick.
Third? A will.i.am song.
Fourth? A French film from 2010, starring Vanessa Paradis.
You have to hit the fifth result before you make it to Ryan Adams’ debut solo album. Sorry Ryan. But chin up, at least you’re not Free, who come sixth.
Apparently, Ryan Adams is a country star ex- of rock / country group Whiskeytown, of whom I’ve never heard. I honestly thought Ryan Adams was one of those impossibly good-looking actor types when this album was randomised into view. I don’t feel bad, because the actual Ryan Adams is one step from the virtual wasteland of Google Page 2. Either that, or he’s a capital B away from Waking Up The Neighbours.
Spoken word intro aside, Heartbreaker starts off rocking. To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High) is a rollicking good song, and it’s followed quick-sharp by the excellent Winding Wheel. Ryan Adams has an expressive vocal range, and the songwriting feels fresh while retaining that country charm. In fact, there’s a few tracks in quick succession that hit some unexpected highs.
Unfortunately, the wheel does fall off soon after. Probably because of all that winding.
The middle section of Heartbreaker slows things down, paring the sound down to the classic and understated bloke with a guitar. The songs drive beep into Maudlin Country, perhaps my least favourite variety of the Cowboy Arts, and it sours me against the album as a whole. Sorry Chet, I understand that your lady is cheating on you with your truck, but a soulful guitar ballad ain’t the cure. Have you tried whiskey?
On a more positive note, things pick up again for Shakedown on 9th Street, which is a bass-driven funky stomper that takes my pick as the top song on the album, albeit from left field. And while I lost interest in Heartbreaker long before the end, it wasn’t through boredom as such. There’s a lot going on, and a depth of style that’s laudable. For example, Adams does a more than passible Bob Dylan impression on a host of these tracks, infusing the Country with some good old fashioned folk sensibility.
In the end, despite enjoying a chunk of Heartbreaker, I feel that my enjoyment level vacillated with the pace and intensity of the country winds. This album gets 5/10 from me, which will do little to manipulate the Google Algorithm in Ryan’s favour.