Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 272
Thursday, Oct 11, 2012
Ryan Adams writes songs like Hemingway or Faulkner craft short stories. Listening to Live After Deaf is like experiencing an author’s intimate anthology as he recants each story with solo his acoustic guitar, his chords as lyrical proof of Adams’s greatness in art of the song. Adams described how songwriting has changed him, when he said, “One of the greatest things I’ve learned from writing songs is that it really shouldn’t be any different than taking notes or being a journalist or a photographer or a painter, or even just being someone that is really into their surroundings or their friends. The best thing to do is just to go with it. I mainly write from sketches, and that’s like writing down your dreams. You can write it down the best that you can, but you never get to the actual dream. Songs are that way – I don’t aspire to be a completest or edit stuff too much. I like it in the raw, beautiful, messy state.”
“Blue Hotel” was written in that same raw, beautifully messy state Ryan loves to create in. At first, “Hotel” was a song that Adams gave to Willie Nelson for the Songbird LP sessions that Ryan himself produced. Nelson himself called “Blue Hotel,” “a great song, and the more you hear it, the more you like it. It really grows on you. He’s a good writer.” Notice that Willie didn’t say scribe of song, he said writer. Adams is one of the most underrated American writers of the last twenty years. Song like “Strawberry Wine” and “Blue Hotel” are lyrical snapshots into a Carson McCullers like literary world, where characters reflect lovers, friends and our own fragile selves with Adams voice as our protagonist guide.
If you wonder how Ryan comes up with these story like songs, Adams explained his process when he said, “It sounds like I’m channeling or something, and I don’t really fully understand what it is. I’ll get a piece of paper and write down what I think is coming to me. And I’ll play it once. Whether it’s being recorded or not, I can then usually remember it for a sometimes shocking amount of time. Sometimes an idea from six years ago will come to me out of the blue. And maybe I haven’t even seen the lyrics I wrote down, but I’ll just have this physical memory of having written it, and in my mind I can see the piece of paper, and the words I wrote down, and then by muscle memory, I’ll remember the chords that go along with it.”
So why did Ryan go back and attempt to evoke that raw, messy moment of “Blue Hotel?” Adams explained when he said, “In the past, I was happy with the first completion of a song. My attitude was: My stuff stays where my stuff is. The songs were the driving force and the reason for being there. [After my wrist breaking accident] that started to seem empty to me. I started to want to get the songs wet, knock ’em around a little. See what might develop.” Nelson’s version from Songbird was quite stellar, The Cardinals attempted a rendition on the Follow The Lights EP but there’s something about Adams stripped down version from Live After Deaf. In this live setting, “Hotel” is transformed into flashback memory, a song of longing and loss brought back to life in such a beautiful setting, on stage with the storytelling eloquence of one Ryan Adams.
I beseech you to experience Adams recapture the greatness of “Blue Hotel” in this definite version from Live After Deaf. The Heartbreaker Ryan Adams may have figured out Love is Hell but he’s come through the other side more prolific writer. So uncork Adams lyrical rain drip over you, drink up—“Blue Hotel” is one of Ryan best short song stories you’ll want to rediscover.
Here’s a glimpse of Ryan’s performance of “Blue Hotel” live in Cork. To get a clearer sound, download the official version from Live After Deaf at an mp3 store near you.