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Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Suicide Handbook

"[The Suicide Handbook] was supposed to be on Lost Highway. It would have been the follow-up to Heartbreaker. It was about some really heavy stuff, and it's amazing.....If anything, it's my most majestic piece ever." - Ryan Adams (Q Magazine. 2007)

1. Wild Flowers
2. Perfect and True
3. Tell it to My Heart
4. She Wants to Play Hearts
5. Pretenders (Pretending's Fun)
6. Famous Eyes
7. Touch, Feel, and Lose (Ryan Adams/David Rawlings)
8. Firecracker (Ryan Adams/Van Alston)
9. La Cienega Just Smiled
10. For No One (A Long and Sad Goodbye)
11. You Don't Know Me
12. Mara Lisa
13. Off Broadway (Ryan Adams/Bucky Baxter)
14. Cracks in the Photograph
15. I'm Waiting
16. Cry on Demand
17. Miss Sunflower
18. Answering Bell
19. My California Love
20. Idiots Rule the World
21. Dear Chicago

Ryan Adams - Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Bass
Bucky Baxter - Guitar, Pedal Steel, Background Vocals

Produced by Ryan Adams
Engineered by Warren Peterson
Recorded at Javelina Studios in Nashville, TN

The Background
Originally planned as the follow-up to Heartbreaker, The Suicide Handbook is an unplugged collection of 21 acoustic songs, that Ryan wrote following his ill-fated breakup with an unnamed Hollywood actress. Recorded in January of 2001, and just months prior to the sessions for Gold, these songs have a similar feel to those of Bruce Springsteen's classic album Nebraska. Joined only by band mate - Bucky Baxter, who plays some excellent pedal steel, guitar and occasional background vocals, this album is Ryan Adams at his most stripped down.

Nearly half of the songs on The Suicide Handbook have gone on to be re-recorded for other albums; sometimes with different lyrics, or slightly different arrangements; other times with a faster tempo or doctored up with more reverb. "Answering Bell", "Firecracker", "La Cienega Just Smiled", "Mara Lisa", "Wild Flowers", and "Touch, Feel, and Lose" would all go on to be highlights on Gold. While "Dear Chicago", "She Wants to Play Hearts", and "Cry on Demand" would be left almost untouched, and released the following year on a collection called Demolition.

Over the past ten years, there have been a number of rumors and tentative plans, made by Ryan Adams and Lost Highway Records; that The Suicide Handbook would be officially released. Originally, the record was going to come out as part of a 4-6 disc collection called 20:20; and feature a treasure trove of previously unreleased material, including several finished albums. Unfortunately these recordings have yet to surface, but there is some good news! Recently, after leaving Lost Highway Records, Ryan retained the rights to release these recordings on his own. His new plan is to release this someday as a single album. Since being recorded in 2001, Ryan has gone back and properly mixed and mastered the album, with full band accompaniment (including drums by Brad Pemberton of The Cardinals, and a 16 piece string section with parts arranged by Ryan). He has also stated that there are several songs on the final version which do not appear on this bootleg recording.

My Review
As the title would suggest, these songs tend to be pretty dark, heartbreaking, and a little depressing at times. Still they're more uplifting than the songs on Love is Hell and show Ryan continuing to grow as a songwriter. There are plenty of highlights that are a must listen! Of the songs that were later re-recorded, "Answering Bell" (which includes an excellent pedal steel solo), "Touch, Feel and Lose", and "Off Broadway" are all stellar and easily rival later officially released versions. While "Dear Chicago" and "She Wants to Play Hearts" are the same recordings that can be found on Demolition, except here they don't have the added reverb, which sounds really nice! Of the unreleased gems, "Miss Sunflower", "Cracks in the Photograph" (twangy country), and "For No One" tend to be fan favorites. "Idiots Rule the World" is the lone piano track on the album and is a personal favorite that only gets better with age. Despite being 21 songs long and completely acoustic, as a whole this record has held up surprisingly well over the years. This album is one of the most essential Ryan Adams bootlegs available!

Very Essential!

Key Tracks: "Wild Flowers", "She Wants to Play Hearts", "Pretenders", "Famous Eyes", "Touch Feel and Lose", "For No One", "Mara Lisa", "Off Broadway", "Cracks in the Photograph", "Cry on Demand", "Miss Sunflower", "Answering Bell", "My California Love", "Idiots Rule the World", "Dear Chicago"

Song Info

"Dear Chicago" was originally recorded for Heartbreaker and was planned to be the final song on the album but was left off.

"Wild Flowers", "Firecracker", "Touch, Feel, and Lose", "Answering Bell", and "La Cienega Just Smiled" were later re-recorded and released on Gold

"Mara Lisa" was later re-recorded and released as a b-side on the single for "New York, New York".

"She Wants Play Hearts", "Dear Chicago", and "Cry on Demand" were later released on Demolition.

"Off Broadway" was later re-recorded and released on Easy Tiger.

Ryan mentioned that "For No One" just barely missed being included on Demolition. He mentioned that he'd probably put it on the next album but it has yet to be officially released.


  1. Ryan's best record period. One of my favorite albums all time by anyone. This is Ryan's "Blood on the Tracks," his "Late for the Sky." It's that good.

  2. Perfect and True is an essential track

  3. @jay ess

    absolutely right. this is without a doubt his best work. its depth and ease eclipse most all singer-songwriter efforts within the past 40 years.