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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


(Bloodshot Records)
Released 9/5/00
"I really find it [Heartbreaker] a very spiritual record. I definitely came into my own in that respect pretty hard, and I had lots of time to think and sort of grow up." - Ryan Adams

The Reviews
"Feeling so bad has seldom sounded so laceratingly good, and just to make sure you don't miss anything on the finest musical memoir of 2000, it's better to listen to it in the dark. Heartbreaker boasts shambling rock and restive ballads and abject waltz-temp testimony, and it's that truly inspired album everybody's been seeking from a young male troubadour for the past decade or more..... An intuitive document destined to be a prized, restorative possession for anyone fortunate enough to encounter it..... ." (Timothy White - Billboard)
"He is haunted by the ghost of Gram Parsons. With lyrics as tousled and enigmatic as he is ("I'm as calm as a fruit stand in New York/ and maybe as strange"), Adams may serve up the twang, but his lyrics are strictly post-modern. An interesting first solo step for an icon in the making. " (SF Gate)

"Whiskeytown frontman and alt.country wunderkind Ryan Adams has admitted that his first solo record, Heartbreaker, is about breaking up with a girl. Not like it's hard to tell; one listen and you know this guy got his heart handed to him. But while a lot of records written about lost love end up being simplistic, baby-I-miss-you crap, Adams turns his heartache into a romantic and tear-stained epic, extolling the beauties of love, even after it's lying in ruins. .... If there was ever a record for loneliness, Heartbreaker is definitely it. " (Jeff Inman - The Las Vegas Weekly)

"Heartbreaker is a mixed bag of familiar moods and sounds. On the first listen through a few double-album classics will come to mind. Strains of the Dylan classic, Basement Tapes, will leap to mind. There are also echoes of Exile on Main Street, not to mention the late great Gram Parsons. But on the second and third go-round you'll notice it's simply traditional window-dressing. " (Pop Culture Detox)

1. (Argument With David Rawlings Concerning Morrissey)
2. To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high) (Adams/ Rawlings)
3. My Winding Wheel
4. AMY
5. Oh My Sweet Carolina
6. Bartering Lines (Adams/ Van Alston)
7. Call Me On Your Way Back Home
8. Damn, Sam (I love a woman that rains)
9. Come Pick Me Up (Adams/ Van Alston)
10. To Be The One
11. Why Do They Leave?
12. Shakedown On 9th Street
13. Don't Ask For the Water
14. In My Time Of Need
15. Sweet lil Gal (23rd/1st)
Ryan Adams acoustic/electric guitar/harmonica/piano/banjo
Ethan Johns drums/bass/chamberlin/glockenspiel/B-3/vibes
David Rawlings sings/acoustic/electric guitars/banjo/throws tambourine
Gillian Welch sings/banjo/acoustic guitar/electric bass/voice of "Lucy"
Pat Sansone piano ("oh my sweet carolina") chamberlin/weird-storm-producing
organ type instrument on Bartering Lines/piano, ("why do you leave" and "come
pick me up")/background with Ethan on "winding wheel"
Emmylou Harris sings ("oh my sweet carolina")
Kim Richey sings ("come pick me up")
Allison Pierce sings ("why do they leave?")
Maple all around swell guy that brought up the amp (thanks man)
produced by Ethan Johns
engineered and mixed by Ethan Johns
assistant engineer, Patrick Himes
mastered by Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab (Hollywood),
recorded at Woodland Studios, Room A
Nashville, Tennessee. It took 14 days.

Pre-Production Recordings
Allen Midgett, Waltmore St. Studios, Jacksonville, NC
Merle Chornuk, Pilot Studios, New York City

The Background

To many, Heartbreaker remains the crowning achievement of the Ryan Adams catalog. Recorded over the course of 2 weeks during the summer of 2000, it's a stunning, sad and confessional album that Ryan wrote about his ex-girlfriend. Prior to the album's release, Ryan had moved to Avenue A/10th Street in New York City to live with his girlfriend - Amy. During that time together, their relationship slowly fell apart and eventually they went their separate ways. Financially broke, Ryan met his future manager - Frank Callari who offered him a loan and convinced him that a move to Nashville, TN would be good for him.

While in Nashville, he immersed himself in the music scene, became good friends and recording buddies with David Rawlings and Gillian Welch, formed a band called the Pinkhearts, and eventually signed a one album deal with Chicago alt-country label - Bloodshot Records.

The label's expectations of how Heartbreaker would go over with listeners was modest at best. Ryan saw it as a chance to get back out and play gigs again in intimate 100-200 person venues around the country. Instead the album gradually sold 100's of thousands of copies and remains a classic of the sad bastard singer-songwriter genre.

Years later, Heartbreaker continues to be a staple of various Best of the Decade lists/Desert Island Disc polls.

My Review

Ryan Adams' solo debut - Heartbreaker, is without a doubt his greatest achievement. Most of the reviews above sum up my feelings of the record. But on a personal note, I first heard "Winding Wheel" and "Come Pick Me Up" from a Counting Crows bootleg, and immediately had to go out and find this Ryan Adams album. I visited 5 record stores before I finally found a copy, and it was on constant rotation for months after that. Heartbreaker was the album that first turned me on to his music and made me a fan for life. I dissected my way through each of these songs, and they helped push me to be a better songwriter. This is a staple Songwriting 101 album.

Essential and the First Ryan Adams you should own!

Key Tracks - The Whole Record is Phenomenal

Other Versions/ Bonus Cuts worth Checking Out

In 2002, a Deluxe version of Heartbreaker was released through Fargo Records in France. The deluxe disc features a bonus disc containing "Goodbye Honey" and an acoustic version of "To Be Young". It's pretty tough to track a copy down and they usually run $40+.

In 2002, "Goodbye Honey" and the acoustic version of "To Be Young" were also released on a Bloodshot Records Compilation called - "Making Singles, Drinking Doubles". The album also features songs by Neko Case, The Waco Brothers, and the Sadies.

Lastly in 2002, an alternate version of "In My Time of Need" was released on The Rookie movie soundtrack. The song was taken from the Heartbreaker sessions.

In 2008, Heartbreaker was released on double high grade vinyl with a gatefold sleeve under Cobraside Distribution Inc. The album was remastered from the original analog tapes and they sound amazing!

In 2012, various solo versions of songs from the album were released on the live compilation - Live After Deaf.

In 2015, a limited edition 7" was released for Record Store Day featuring an alternate version of "Come Pick Me Up", and an unreleased song from the session called "Rope Gets Tight".

In 2015, Heartbreaker was remastered and reissued again on Pax-Am Records -  once again as a double LP, 180 gram, gatefold, vinyl release.


"In My Time of Need" has been covered by Joan Baez and the Cowboy Junkies.

"Oh My Sweet Carolina" has been covered by the Zac Brown Band, Frank Turner, Stephen Kellogg, Counting Crows, Adam Duritz, and Portastatic.

"Come Pick Me Up" was covered on American Idol, as well as by Counting Crows and the Zac Brown Band.

"Amy" has been covered by Mark Ronson.

"Winding Wheel" was covered by Counting Crows, and Laura Marling.

"Oh My Sweet Carolina", "Bartering Lines", and "Shakedown on 9th Street" have all been covered by Phil Lesh and Friends.

And lastly, David Rawlings who co-wrote "To Be Young" recorded the song for his own solo album.

Random Notes
Other Songs Recorded During the Heartbreaker Sessions Include:

"Dear Chicago" - originally planned as the last song on Heartbreaker, then it was re-recorded for Gold and the Suicide Handbook; and finally released on Demolition

"Pa" - re-recorded and released on Jacksonville City Nights

"Petal in a Rainstorm" (aka: "Oh My Sweet Valentine) - re-recorded for Ashes & Fire, and released as a bonus flexi-disc single with pre-orders of the album.

"Goodbye Honey" - later released as a bonus track and on a Bloodshot Records compilation.

"When the Rope Gets Tight" - later released on the Record Store Day 7" of "Come Pick Me Up' in 2015, and re-recorded as "Don't Fail Me Now" on Jacksonville City Nights.

Other Random Info

Heartbreaker was originally submitted to roots label - Sugar Hill Records, but was rejected.

"In My Time of Need" was originally written for Johnny Cash to record for one of his Rick Rubin produced American series albums.

Early versions of "Come Pick Me Up", "Don't Ask for the Water", and "Goodbye Honey" can also be found on the unreleased album - Exile on Franklin Street.
The title of the album was chosen one day when the label called Ryan insisting that they needed to know the name of his new album. Ryan quickly looked across the room at a picture of Mariah Carey with the word "Heartbreaker" written across her t-shirt and decided that's what he would call the album.

Sweet Videos

Heartbreaker Tour Documentary Part 1/2 (recorded just after the album release)

Heartbreaker Tour Documentary Part 2/2 (recorded just after the album release)

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful songsmith, changed my life. I do a weekly podcast, here is one of my first one i dedicated on the greatness of Ryan http://blairsblues.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/my-second-podcast.html