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Renaissance Men – Ryan Adams and Musicians with Literary Pretensions

Ryan Adams has in the past appeared to be a young man with a very short attention span, given his prolific release schedule over the last decade or so. But it seems that he has finally grown bored of an endless release cycle, even incorporating the many different genres he has recorded in. In fact, music may well not have been his first love, and it won’t be his last (no, not the music of the future. Or even the music of the past.) “I always, always dreamed of being an author,” he said. “I never dreamed of being in a rock band, but the possibility of publishing a book – man, that was a serious dream of mine.” In January, Adams announced via his blog that he was taking a “step back” from the “music situation”. One of the reasons cited was an inner-ear problem that was causing him increasing amounts of distress; the other was to spend time furthering his literary ambitions (Or, as he blogged: “I LOVE writing – yay!”).

At 34, and after an abundance of solo records, next month Adams publishes Infinity Blues, a collection of free verse he describes as “reality coated by dreams”, with a novel and another volume of poetry, Hello Sunshine, in the pipeline. Bet you can’t wait for that, eh?

He enters a field populated by a fairly select band of musicians, most notably Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Leonard Cohen and Billy Bragg, who have written and published works of serious literary intent, aspiring beyond music criticism, memoir or autobiography. Similarly, Richmond Fontaine’s Willy Vlautin is probably better known for his novels than he is for his work with the Americana. And for some of the above, it seemed a natural progression. Bragg’s polemic on English history, Earle’s tales of low-lives and junkies, Cave’s deranged Western…..makes sense. But Ryan Adams?

The suspicion grows around the former Whiskeytown man that he’s merely a dilettante, never really settling down into one natural progression. Musically, he’s wandered between styles, always trying to get away from what he excels in (alt.country) and trying to be what he clearly isn’t (Springsteenesque Rock God.) It’s all very laudable, but this strikes ELM as just another variation on that theme. Just because he LOVES writing doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be much cop at it.

One to wait and see then.

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5 Responses

  1. Whats the most recent album ( ” cardiganology ” ! ) like ? I havent heard anything of it at all.

  2. I love (most of) his musical output, but he IS a wee dick, isn’t he?

  3. Dusty – Download ‘Magick’ and ‘I’d Fix It’ and that’s you sorted.

    Whippet – He really is.

  4. I love almost all his music and most of his writing. I don’t care if he’s a dick or not since I don’t know him personally.

  5. Normally I agree – I love the Fall, and Mark E. Smith is clearly a berk – but with Adams, it drags into his live shows.

    No-one denies his music is loveable, but he isn’t.

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