Ryan Adams in Baltimore, MD
On my way to a Ryan Adams show last night in Baltimore, I was feeling a bit guilty. Lately I haven’t been giving Mr. Adams as much attention as I have in the past. Ashes & Fire came out in October and I’ve only listened to it a handful of times. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that other men have been the focus of my musical desire. I’ve delved into Justin Townes Earle’s catalog recently and fallen back in love Jesse Malin after seeing him perform a living room show a few months ago. I’ve even reopened the doors to my relationship with Noel Gallagher. I guess I felt out of touch with Ryan Adams.
Everything changed, however, when Adams opened the show with “Oh My Sweet Carolina”. I don’t know why this image comes to mind, but it was like watching a soft blanket of snow come down from the inside of a warm house; comforting and new at the same time. And as if there was a cute puppy playing in the falling snow, Adams played “Jacksonville Skyline,” a song I’ve waited years for him to play live. It made my heart flutter and (as embarrassing as it is to admit) it made me cry.
One Thanksgiving when I was in college, I was driving back to Virginia Tech from my grandmother’s house in Wilmington, NC. In the age of MapQuest print-outs and one dimensional cell phones, I boldly decided to take a detour and drive north along the coast to Jacksonville. The city wasn’t much, except that it was everything. I saw signs for Midway Park and old military housing and, in a weird way, it felt like home. Growing up in the Navy, I never had a hometown. I was born in Wilmington, spent some summers there, but I had a new home every two years. I latched onto “Jacksonville Skyline” because I felt it got me. Hearing him play it last night just brought back all those feelings I struggled with in college of not having a since of place and learning to accept where I was in the present.
Yesterday I realized the thing about Ryan Adams is that he’ll always be around no matter where life takes me. I remember listening to Heartbreaker coming back from NYC with my parents in high school. I remember laying on my stomach listening to Cold Roses in my first apartment off campus in college. I remember the feeling of listening to Demolition for the first time. I remember going to Crossroads record store in Blacksburg, VA and discovering old Whiskeytown albums. I remember seeing him for the first time with my best friend at the Ryman in Nashville, TN. I remember how guilty I felt when I bought Easy Tiger on iTunes because it was cheaper than the hard copy and I lived on a student budget. I remember that it was a show in Norfolk, VA that allowed my friend to touch the ocean for the first time. I remember requesting specific Ryan Adams songs to play at my wedding reception.
No matter what, I can put on Adam’s music and feel comfortable. He’ll always be “that artist” in my life, even if he’s not #1 on my playlist anymore.