Ryan Adams – 48 Hours

48 Hours (Unreleased, rec. 2001)


1. Hallelujah 2. Walls 3. Desire 4. Angelina 5. Like The Twilight 6. Chin Up, Cheer Up 7. Born Yesterday 8. Blue 9. One For The Rose 10. Karina (False Start) 11. Karina 12. Little Moon


This spiffy little gem was recorded over the course of two days (which you probably could have surmised from the title, unless you’re mathematically retarded) in summer 2001, almost immediately following the completion of the Gold sessions. It featured the return of both Heartbreaker’s Ethan Johns as producer and multi-instrumentalist, and of Ryan to peak form after the disappointment of Gold. And lemme tell you – Heartbreaker may have the higher highs, but if I’m choosing one Ryan Adams album to take with me on a desert island, I’d take this one, despite the fact that it remains unreleased in its complete form. It’s an ultra-consistent (and concise, which is of course typically not Ryan’s strong suit) tour though Ryan’s best musical qualities.

Before I continue, since I brought it up, may I just address the absurdity the whole “desert island discs” concept? Mark Prindle already penned the definitive discussion on why your favorite rock album may not be the most practical item to bring with you on a desert island. But my qualm is more about semantics. Has anyone since recorded music was invented actually been stranded on a desert island? It would be one thing if pirates had a means of recording their favorite sea shanties so that whenever they marooned someone, the maroonee could listen to “What Would You Do With A Drunken Sailor” as he drearily awaited death by starvation. Then the whole “bringing your favorite albums to a deserted island” would at least have some historical precedent. But I’m 99.99% sure that nobody as ever been stranded on a desert island with only Sgt. Pepper to keep them company. Therefore, I propose that we update this useless pastime with some more modern and realistic language.

If I were to be held indefinitely in a federal prison on no formal charges in the name of “national security,” 48 Hours would be the one Ryan Adams album I would bring with me.

(I figure they could at least play something I like while they waterboard me, right?).

This is just about the ideal Ryan Adams album, effortlessly combining the two major elements of Ryan’s wheelhouse – his earnest, straightforward country rock side and his heartbroken acoustic side. Just about everything has a strong, memorable melody and the record as a whole is uncharacteristically cohesive. It feels like it’s of a moment, of a time and place, rather than a random collection of sixteen stylistically schizophrenic songs (cough, Gold, cough. Ahem. Sorry, I swallowed some milk down the wrong pipe. I meant to say “Gold and like half of all Ryan Adams albums”). I can’t help but picture Ryan and band plowing through these songs at 3 A.M. in a dimly lit studio, seated in a circle with stubble growing on their faces and half empty whiskey bottles and crushed beer cans strewn around. And that’s coming from me, and I’ve been saying that Ryan’s songs rarely convince me of his drunkenness since all the way back in my Whiskeytown reviews. This time around, I totally feel it in the ragged Nashville barroom barnstormers like “Hallelujah” (no, not a Leonard Cohen cover, you twit) and “Angelina,” and especially in the acoustic masterpieces “Karina” and the mandolin-adorned “Like The Twilight.” The latter in particular is one of Ryan’s most emotional and visceral songs ever. I really can see Ryan stumbling around “drunk, fucked up” and forlorn, and god knows you and I can relate to the feeling too.

Oh, and there’s a version of “Born Yesterday” on here with a brilliant vocal barely, if at all distinguishable from the one Ryan laid down on the Destroyer version over a year earlier. How did he do that? It’s easy to forget sometimes, but man, this guy is good.

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