Ryan Adams described his first literary tome, “Infinity Blues as” “…the jewel of my life’s work. Who I am is this book.” Many of us like to think we know who Ryan Adams is by his confessional songwriting style that we adore from his memorable songs. Adams’ writing technique is a very personal one where the audience can immediately relate to the pain and heartache Ryan is singing about in his most treasured songs. Who hasn’t asked for their records back from an unfaithful lover as heard on “Come Pick Me Up?”
Ryan’s words and especially his lyrics on “Oh My Sweet Carolina” are what made me an instant fan. I loved the way his words brought to life a loner, a virtual gambler, on the road who on searching meaning of home. At the moment I heard “Carolina,” I was following my wanderlust, moving from city to city just like the character in Ryan’s song whose disposition would one day also, carry me home. Even though I wasn’t from Kentucky and I never built newsprint boats, I could relate to the outsider in Ryan’s song. It was the way that Ryan sang the lyrics I felt like that character who never been to Vegas but has always gambled up his life.
All it took was “Carolina” and I was a follower of one David Ryan Adams. When I first heard about “Infinity Blues” I was elated. Ryan’s foray into writing poems and stories would seem like a leap to some but not the rest of us his loyal fan base. To me it seems that with every record Adams is expanding his songwriting craft away from the traditional song structure and moving more into story like prose. Look at albums like Love is Hell and Jacksonville City Nights as examples of more poetic short stories turned into songs.
In preparing for “Infinity Blues” there was one album I kept going back to, and that was the very often overlooked 29. I hear 29 as Ryan’s first unofficial collection of short storied poems in song forms. All you have to do is listen to songs like “Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play the Part” and especially in the epic “Strawberry Wine” and you will hear the way that Adams’ writing has evolved. You can hear Ryan and his quintessential lyrics like “Can you still have any famous last words/ if you’re nobody somebody nobody knows…”
Ryan won’t have to worry about not being famous because after reading “Infinity Blues”—he’ll be able to add triumphant poet and writer to his resume. “Infinity Blues” has the essential Ryan Adams writing style we’ve grown to love within the poems of this eclectic collection.
Not very many singer/songwriters can claim to have written an accomplished tome of books and short stories. Jeff Tweedy and Billy Corgan tried unsuccessfully, so Adams can join the likes of Dylan, Cohen and Lennon as artists who made the jump from songs to poems.
Throughout “Infinity Blues” you’ll read Adams’ Southern Gentlemanly charm mixed with his canny downtown bohemian insight inspired by his days on tour and his nights living in New York City. This dichotomy makes poems like “Time Ain’t Nobody’s Friend” and “Home Safe-Heartsickness” comes alive with Ryan’s trademark literary wit and ear for explicit beauty and sadness.
One theme you will see throughout of “Infinity Blues” is Ryan’s trademark search for love. Even though “Blues” was dedicated to her, pet name for his honey Bug, “Infinity” was written before his nuptials to his now wife Mandy Moore. Poems like “Snow Lady, I Wished You” and “Enough Rope” has Ryan penning his desires and romantic notions on the page with such lines as “I would lasso that moon down and deliver it you.”
Scattered throughout “Blues” are 3 short, short stories that you will have to seek out, the best one being “27 Steps.” This one about Robert from the docks reminds me of Dylan’s writings in Chronicles. Just like Dylan, Adams has some vibrant descriptions it’s like you’re right there with this girl on the pier. Adams always has this knack of slaying me with his words, “27 Steps” is no different. My favorite lines have to be, “Claudia’s voice mumbled through, in a steady up-and-down notation, almost a bird’s song with words really. And you hear the coffee in her.” “27 Steps” is like a snap-shot of a scene between two would-be lovers. My only complaint is that this story is too short. I’m dying to know what happens next.
We’ll have to wait a year or two for Ryan Adams’ true novel. He’s got another poetry collection, “Hello Sunshine,” coming out later on this year. “Infinity” is all about the poems. As poet, Adams is a natural. Although it seems that he may have fears about his own words. In my favorite poem, “Writing, Dying, for the Trying,” Ryan writes: “I will be sitting here, with you, or not, buried inside this, almost alive, Talking to no one/ writing dying for the trying to get it right.”
I don’t know what Adams was worried about because with “Infinity Blues”—he got it right. The poems in “Blues” are some the best verses Ryan Adams has ever written, and this is just his first foray into publishing. What a beginning. If Ryan Adams said “`Infinity Blues’ is who I truly am”— I’m glad to have finally discovered the poet inside the songwriter we have admired all of these years.
Available from Akashic Books