Cardinal Rules

Unsoliced Advice for Ryan Adams



NOTE! As of Wednesday the 10th, Ryan Adams has canceled his appearance due to illness.

Ryan Adams is the artist that critics love to hate, not so much because of his music—which can be incredibly accomplished and moving—but because he can be such a dick. His asshole-brat persona rubs people—not just critics, but other musicians and fans of his earlier band, Whiskeytown, and his debut, Heartbreaker—the wrong way. Part of it is the clichéd excesses he indulged in the public-persona category after releasing the too-slick solo effort Gold: He dated Winona Ryder, feuded with Jack White, hung out with the Strokes, and posted incoherent, self-pitying ramblings on his website that made Mariah Carey's meltdown seem lucid.

The other part of his bad reputation is more easily traced to the fact that in his milieu of origin—that's country music in its "alt" permutation—a certain humility is expected. Cocky arrogance and not a little love/hate with the audience is intrinsic to rock 'n' roll, but country expects a certain amount of humanity, realness even, from its musicians. It's the people's music after all. In country music, you can get away with being an alcoholic train wreck or an adultering freak show whose catalog easily doubles as the History of Thinking with Your Dick, but act grateful for Christ's sake. Adams hasn't played by these or any other rules. That's part of his outlaw charm and why some people loathe him.

He's also committed another horrible breach of etiquette by unapologetically genre-hopping and being ridiculously prolific. This year alone he has an avalanche of new material coming out—three albums before the end of the year. The man simply has no edit function.

The Cardinals, who share co-writing credits with Adams on his recent Cold Roses, a "real band, man," and Adams is saying he wants to fade into a band again like he did during his time in Whiskeytown. This is disingenuous though. He was the center of attention in Whiskeytown and is billed first on Cold Roses. He's still the star whether he likes it or not. Now if he could just accept his fate, bow his head, and be a little more gracious.


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