Ryan Adams – The Swedish Sessions

The Swedish Sessions (Unreleased, rec. 2001)


1. You Will Always Be The Same 2. For Beth 3. Dear Anne 4. Poor Jimmy 5. Madeline I 6. Madeline II 7. Oh, Charles 8. Come Monday 9. Not In Love 10. Friendly Fire 11. Fool For You


Ryan was peaking hard throughout 2001 – not that anyone could tell from Gold. I mean, even the stuff he was knocking off in between fall tour dates in some godforsaken Scandanavian country while surrounded on all sides by pickled vegetables and blonde people was a damn sight prettier and better-written than what most singer-songwriters come up with in a career. I doubt these tunes were even intended for release (though two of them did come out later – the gorgeous “You Will Always Be The Same” appeared on Demolition, and “For Beth” was reworked as “Friends” for Cold Roses). And yet, if not for the 12 minutes in a row of slow blues that crop up smack dab in the middle of the running order as a result of two back-to-back, not-all-that-distinguishable takes of “Madeline,” as well as the interminable piano-based bowel movement “Come Monday,” this would be a perfectly fine little album, more than fit for release.

Most of this is Ryan once again in classic singer-songwriter mode, diverging only with “Madeline” and the bloozey rave-up “Poor Jimmy,” complete with screaming harmonica and electric slide guitar. It’s a fun change of pace, but it continues to amaze me how Ryan is able to play sad song after sad song on acoustic guitar without boring me. The arrangements are slightly more fleshed out than those on The Suicide Handbook, with some cello or minimal percussion popping up on a few tracks. But they’re still pretty bare bones, which doesn’t prevent Ryan from knocking it out of the park a few more times for good measure. How does he manage write songs as basic and uncreative as the two-chord “Fool For You” that I nonetheless love? Must be the great singing. Or perhaps some form of voodoo magic. Neither is necessary, however, to make me love the breezy “Not In Love,” a witty inversion of the typical romantic sentiments expressed in these types of songs, or the piano dirge “Oh, Charles,” which is at once a harrowing portrait of a desperate prisoner and a satirical piss-take of such a portrait: “You said you was going to bust me out/Is that the part the D.A. edited out/Fuck this, oh Charles, fuck this.”

The downside is that these are the last available Ryan Adams recordings of 2001 (at least that I know of), and once the calendar changed, he would never again quite regain the ability to pull masterful acoustic ballads out of ass seemingly at will. Yup, there’re a whole lotta uneven genre experiments from here on out, people. Hold on to your hats.

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