Posts Tagged With: Gimme Something Good

June madness continues: The brains behind the bracket

BracketManTaking the Ryan Adams fan universe by storm this week is the “BEST DRA SONG 2017” challenge, a tournament-style bracket to determine Ryan’s best-ever song as determined by fan vote. More than 600 people voted in the first round and there weren’t any huge surprises with the results, as all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the second round and only a few underdogs pulled off upsets. But on a personal level, I have to say that I found one of those lower-seed victories immensely satisfying: From the “2011-Present” region, No. 9 “Jacksonville” knocked off No. 8 “Gimme Something Good” (yes!).

Voting for round two is open through 11:45 p.m. Thursday (June 15), and then it will be on to the “Sweet 16.” The winner should emerge sometime around June 25.

This admirably ambitious project is the work of superfan Christopher S. Bradley, an attorney at a Pennsylvania-based law firm. He was kind enough to entertain a few questions about his methodology, which are below (lightly edited).

(1) Did you come up with the seedings and pairings yourself, or did others have input?

I originally came up with the bracket and regions (eras) first. I had to think of a way to distill his massive catalog down to a field of 64 without picking and choosing MY personal favorites. So I went through each “era” and pulled the songs off of albums and EPs from that era and made a “Group.” I was as transparent as possible when doing this, I listed what albums and EPs I pulled from in each group. I did not do doubles in the same group (“Anybody Wanna Take Me Home” was only listed once in the so-called “Heartbreaker” Group). However, I did include “This Is It” in the “Heartbreaker” group and the Cardinals Group. What resulted was a massive group play survey wherein respondents would choose 15 songs in each group and songs would be seeded according to number of votes received. Any ties were resolved by coin flip and any ties of three or more were winnowed down to a coin flip choice by random number generator (this only happened in the Cardinals Group). A song was assigned “heads” based on alphabetical order. The full results in PDF form can be found here.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, that 15×4 does not equal 64. I know there is a segment of the fanbase (myself included) that celebrates a lot of the unreleased material. So I created a fifth “Play-in” group with unique songs from “The Suicide Handbook,” “48 Hours,” “Pinkhearts 1 & 2,” “Darkbreaker,” “Destroyer,” “Fasterpiece,” “Let it B Minus,” “Swedish Sessions” and “Exile on Franklin Street.” The respondents were asked to select eight songs from this group that would be matched up highest to lowest seed and voted upon to make four 16 seeds. Only 50 people voted on the Play-In Matchups.

I deliberately left out the genre joke projects like Werewolph, The Shit, Sleazy Handshake, DJ Reggie, etc. While some of this stuff is fun, I made the executive decision deeming those projects outside the scope of this particular foray into superfandom.

My survey was not without mistakes, I left out some of the great tracks from the deluxe reissue of “Strangers Almanac” in the Whiskeytown Group, and many of the unreleased albums I have are missing some tracks here and there. I don’t believe this skewed the final results; many of the people I confided in correctly predicted it would more than likely come down to many of the more popular songs. The biggest surprise that made the field of 64 was “Jacksonville” off of the Pax Am Singles Series EP of the same name. All told, 260 people voted on the Group Play Survey.

(2) I presume the criteria was that songs had to be “officially” released in some fashion — no bootlegs, or songs that just existed live?

I did limit it to official releases, but in order to have people get a say on the unreleased material, I created that fifth group drawing from the bulk of his unreleased stuff. I had those winners seeded 16 because they’re unreleased and I didn’t feel comfortable having something Ryan didn’t officially release be above stuff he worked hard to polish into an official release. If a 16 seed were to upset a 1 seed in the tournament portion, then that segment of the fanbase who feels “Come Pick Me Up” is somehow worse than “Walls” would be vindicated in a more democratic fashion rather than including unreleased material by era and having it lose badly during group play.

I was pretty close to leaving out EPs and such from each group. But in the end, especially in the 2011-Present group, I decided to include them because there are a lot of amazing songs there. Part of me wanted people to discover more and more of his music. We can’t all be rabid superfans!

I don’t believe I included any live tracks or even the ones played live that are allegedly on “Blackhole” such as “Catherine” and “The Door.” To me, these would fall under the “unreleased” category; if I included some live music then I would have to include a lot of other live songs such as live covers Ryan has done many times. But album-released covers are fair game because, like “Wonderwall” and the entirety of “1989,” they’re his arrangements and versions of those songs.

(3) Part of the fun of being a Ryan Adams fan is that we’ve all got our favorite phases and stages — Whiskeytown, Cardinals, Gold and so on — which we insist are the best. What’s your favorite era of his?

Oh man, this is a hard question. I suppose I deserve it because I’m asking all these people to choose between some of their favorite songs. I guess if I were to choose it would be the Cardinals, because a lot of that music is one of the things that got me through law school with my sanity nearly intact.

The best part about music in general is its subjectivity; there is literally no way I can unequivocally tell you what I like is better than what you like because you can’t make someone not like something if it is their personal taste. This is the most scientific way I could come up with that would objectively pick the best Ryan Adams song. But if you’re a fan you still have the freedom to believe the Cardinals were the best thing since sliced bread and everything else is trash.

I am in a lot of the DRA Facebook groups where people are constantly making blanket statements like, “‘Ashes & Fire’ sucks,” “Why bother with anything Ryan does nowadays, he hasn’t been good since the Cardinals,” “Ryan Adams peaked with Whiskeytown,” “‘Love Is Hell’ is Ryan’s best work don’t @ me.” No one backs these statements up, because it is their personal preference; to me all of those statements are true depending on how I feel that day.

(4) What’s your background — where are you originally from, and when/how did your DRA fandom start?

I grew up in the rural northeastern portion of Pennsylvania where bro country rules the airwaves. I am a huge Bob Dylan fan and anyone with a passing interest in Dylanology can see the broad similarities between him and Ryan. They both refuse to be pigeonholed into any genre, they’re both prolific writers, they change their musical style album to album, era to era, and don’t give a flying fajita what the masses think. Hell, I’m sure Ryan would spit out his tea if he saw me even making that comparison. Late in my high school career I was turned on to Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Bottle Rockets, Son Volt, DBT, et. al. This of course led me to Whiskeytown and DRA.

I attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh for undergrad and law school. During that time a lot of Ryan’s music got me through tough papers and finals and what not. I probably drove my various roommates insane by playing a lot of songs on repeat (I do that now to my wife). But to me, all of his music is timeless.


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Be my winding wheel

As we’ve covered, it’s been a mighty long time since I’ve seen Ryan Adams onstage. The last time was almost 11 years ago, when he came to Raleigh’s Meymandi Hall in June 2005 and played a tense, shambolic and kind of wonderful homecoming show that nobody realized was actually him saying goodbye. Maybe not even Ryan himself.

For whatever reason, Ryan has chosen to stay away from his old hometown and native state, to the point that he’s played every adjoining state within the past year — but not North Carolina. I’ve stayed away, too, not going out of my way to see a show of his elsewhere.

SXSW16Wednesday night, however, found both Ryan and me in Austin, Texas. And if I can’t see him play in Raleigh, seeing him play South By Southwest is probably the next best thing. Ryan was booked into a ballroom at the fancy new Marriott Hotel downtown, on a bill with (irony of ironies) that proudest of North Carolina acts, the Avett Brothers.

“It’s an honor to share the stage with an artist we all adore, Ryan Adams,” Seth Avett said during the Avetts’ opening set. Then he grinned a bit sheepishly as he continued. “Fellow North Carolinian. It’s been…a few years since he played there. But we still claim him.”

Ryan goes back 20 years with SXSW, which is where Whiskeytown had its big music-industry breakthrough show in 1996 — a night when Ryan was so nervous, he was almost too overcome with stage fright to play. Even so, that was the show that pretty much launched Ryan’s career, and he was a SXSW fixture for the next five years.

But Ryan hasn’t been back to SXSW since 2001, even longer than his North Carolina hiatus. So when the late-breaking announcement came that he’d be appearing this year, it seemed like a case of synchronicity that was just too good to pass up.

Of course I went, because how could I not? No, Ryan and I didn’t have any sort of showdown over “Losering.” I kept my distance, content with watching the show as just another face in the crowd. And how was it?

I’d rate it good, if also intermittently anticlimactic for me — which is okay. The show I’d like to see Ryan play does not interest him, just as his recent guises as jam-band guitar god and generic Bryan Adams acolyte don’t much interest me. That said, those songs were fine and earned an enthusiastic crowd response. Ryan’s between-song patter was also amusing as ever, if a tad grumpy.

“It’s none of the songs you like,” he said in response to whoops from the audience when he strapped on an acoustic guitar. “What show do you think you’re at? Crowd-pleasing Ryan Adams is at a different hotel.” The odd part was that this was preamble to 2001’s “New York, New York,” which is still the closest thing Ryan’s ever had to a hit single.

Nevertheless, there were three moments that kind of crushed me, still, all these years later. After commencing with “Gimme Something Good” for the umpteenth time (and after two years, it’s high time to retire this one as set-opener), Ryan swung into “Let It Ride.” A stately glide of a tune from 2005’s Cold Roses opus, “Let It Ride” has always been one of Ryan’s best mid-period solo songs. And I love that he still sings this line:

Tennessee’s a brother to my sister Carolina, where they’re gonna bury me
I ain’t ready to go. I’m never ready to go.

I couldn’t help but smile.

A few songs later came “Dear Chicago,” the farewell song to end all farewell songs. It’s been quiet and solo every other time I’ve seen Ryan play it, but this version was full-band electric. It transposed splendidly to a pop song, with an edge. Ryan is going through an apparently contentious divorce, and he seemed to put a little extra feeling into this line:

I think the thing you said was true.
I’m gonna die alone and sad.

Finally, Ryan strapped on his trusty red-white-and-blue Buck Owens acoustic guitar and shushed the chattery crowd long enough to play “Be My Winding Wheel” unaccompanied. It’s a song from 2000’s Heartbreaker, and all I can say is that it was exactly that — a defiant, foolhardy declaration from someone being left behind, who feels “just like a map, without a single place to go of interest.”

I misted up in spite of myself, thinking about what a long strange trip it’s been since those Whiskeytown shows way back when. My trusty pal Peter Blackstock shot a bit of video of “Winding Wheel,” and I’m glad we have this souvenir (he also reviewed the show here).

Ryan’s 14-song set didn’t have anything from Whiskeytown, which wasn’t surprising. That’s back in North Carolina, so…you know. Anyway, I was glad I went to see him again, after all this time. But I’m not sure when I’ll go again.

So buy a pretty dress. Wear it out tonight. For anyone you think could outdo me…

1 — “Gimme Something Good”
2 — “Let It Ride”
3 — “Stay With Me”
4 — “Dirty Rain”
5 — “Dear Chicago”
6 — “This House Is Not For Sale”
7 — “Everybody Knows”
8 — “Be My Winding Wheel”
9 — “Magnolia Mountain”
10 — “New York, New York”
11 — “Kim”
12 — “Cold Rose”
13 — “When the Stars Go Blue”
14 — “Peaceful Valley”

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Halloweenhead: The next generation

DRAjrSay hey to Liam Gladden, age 5 and very possibly the most avid Ryan Adams superfan in his demographic. Young Liam lives in Salisbury, Md., with his family including his mother, Mandy Gladden, who does a parenting blog. She writes:

We started to play the (self-titled) and “Ashes and Fire” albums at home and in the car. Liam really started to love the songs. His favorites are “Gimme Something Good,” “Ashes and Fire,” “Dirty Rain” and “Kindness.” He really loves them all and plays drums and guitar while he sings (my husband is a drummer and Liam also has his own set and a little guitar). He loves the “1989” cover album and sings all those songs, too.

Liam watches Ryan on YouTube and says he wants to see Ryan in concert. He asked to be Ryan (he calls him by his first name) for Halloween and also to grow his hair out like Ryan’s. We got him the wig instead. He’s so excited to be Ryan and can’t wait for his “Ryan sunglasses” to come in this week to complete his costume. My other two kids like the music, but not like Liam does. He’s quite the little fan.

Come Saturday night, I bet this kid cleans up on Halloween candy.

FOLLOWUP (10/31/2015): It turns out that Liam’s big sister is going as Taylor Swift.


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Standing in for Ryan Adams: Elvira

No, Ryan Adams is not scheduled to appear in his old hometown of Raleigh anytime soon. But Ryan’s co-star from his Halloween-themed “Gimme Something Good” video is on her way. Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson will be one of the featured guests at Comic Con later this month in Raleigh, along with William Shatner, Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno, Sean “Samwise Gamgee” Astin from “The Lord of the Rings” and various members from the cast of “The Walking Dead.”

My News & Observer colleague Josh Shaffer talked to the 63-year-old Peterson about her career and almost eerie longevity (wait, the woman is 63?!) for an interview you can read here.

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Different strokes: “Gimme Something Good,” indeed

voxlogoOn the one hand, I’m still not too fond of Ryan Adamsso I’m kind of with the writer of this “11 great songs of 2014 that were buried on terrible albums” listicle about the overall quality of that album. On the other hand, however, “Gimme Something Good” is not what I would have picked as the redeeming track on Ryan Adams, because I’m even less fond of that song than the rest of the album.

“Still, this one is a stunner.” Um…no. No, it is not.

But heck, Grammy seems to like both, so what do either of us know?



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Ryan Adams rates himself

DRAself-reviewI can’t vouch for the authenticity of this “ASSESSMENT WRITTEN (BY) RYAN ADAMS, HIMSELF,” which DRA super-fan Darren Combs recently unearthed from a tumblr page; looks like an artifact that someone came across in a record store, and it would seem to date back to sometime after Ryan turned 33 years old in November 2007 (Probably around the time the Cardinology album came out in the fall of 2008). Whether or not it’s genuine, however, this sure reads like something the Ryan I remember would have written, and with pretty much the same handwriting to boot.

As to what he’s saying here, it will surprise no one who has read either “Losering” or this assessment that Ryan and I have vastly different takes on the relative merits of his catalog — although I’m basically with him on both Gold and Love Is Hell. But I’d say he vastly underrates Heartbreaker (as well as Demolition and, to a lesser extent, Rock N’ Roll) while grossly overrating the Cardinals albums (Cold Roses aside, of course). Whiskeytown, naturally, goes unmentioned.

Anyway, click on the picture at right to enlarge it, or see below for the more easily legible typewritten version. Here is Ryan according to Ryan, circa 2008. Reading this, I can’t help but wonder: What would this version of Ryan Adams think of “Gimme Something Good” and the rest of the soon-to-be-released Ryan Adams?


Non-Canadian Hack-Assface

At 33, it’s safe to say that most of these records blow. There are like 3 good songs (maybe) on Gold (2) on Demolition and NONE on Rock n’ Roll (AWFUL DON’T BUY) But….Love is Hell is good because I was high as fuck back then and it worked. ALL the Cardinals records have good tunes. If you are a redneck or want to be disappointed with me buy Heartbreaker. But it’s utter shit and I didn’t mean a word of it. I like Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights, Follow the Lights, Easy Tiger (wait for the Cardinals ver.) and CARDINOLOGY. Keep it real — Ryan Adams

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It’s official…

RyanAdamsCoverThe eponymously titled Ryan Adams will indeed be released Sept. 9 via Blue Note Records, with lead single “Gimme Somthing Good” and 10 other songs as per the track list below, not to mention a cover shot of Ryan himself looking…let’s call it a shade unkempt. It does not appear that the album includes the single’s “Aching For More” B-side (which has a cameo from none other than Johnny Depp — ah, synchronicity!), so you’ll have to buy the seven-inch for that. The album is available for pre-order on amazon right now.


1. Gimme Something Good
2. Kim
3. Trouble
4. Am I Safe
5. My Wrecking Ball
6. Stay With Me
7. Shadows
8. Feels Like Fire
9. I Just Might
10. Tired Of Giving Up
11. Let Go

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Ryan Adams wants something good — is that so wrong?

DRAGSGClose to a year later than most everyone in the DRA blogosphere expected (including me), Ryan Adams will apparently have his first new full-length album since 2011’s Ashes & Fire coming out this fall. Definitive details about this long-awaited followup remain sketchy, since most of the news that’s out there right now consists of different music blogs citing each other as sources without anything “official” from Ryan or his management. But here’s about the most detailed item I’ve seen so far, which cites Sept. 9 as release date for the self-titled Ryan Adams through Blue Note Records.

Preceding the album is a single, “Gimme Something Good,” due for release on July 1. I wish I could say I find it great, but…I’m afraid “Gimme Something Good” sounds more like a riff in search of a song than anything that will rank highly in Ryan’s catalog. It’s not bad, with a feel similar to the old Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty hit “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”, thanks to the distinctive keyboard wash of longtime Petter sideman Benmont Tench (on whose recent solo album Ryan also played).  But so far it’s not rising beyond the level of workmanlike for me, and the lyrics certainly imply an unpromising sense of ennui on Ryan’s part:

I can’t talk
My mind is so blank
So I’m going for a walk
I’ve got nothing left to say…

Obviously, your mileage may vary, and here’s a fan-made video from the Ryan Adams Superfan page on Facebook; give it a listen and see what you think. Meantime, maybe it will grow on me…

ADDENDA (8/12-13/2014): Here is Ryan’s own “Gimme Something Good” video — starring Elvira! And here’s an explanation for why he didn’t put out an album in 2013, as expected: At great cost, he scrapped last year’s model. And here he is playing “Gimme Something Good” on Jimmy Fallon.

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