The greatest album Gram Parsons never made.
In its purist form, country music is not about how sexy a girl thinks your tractor is. Country music is all about the heart, but not the achy breaky kind. Country music is about the heart that is fragile, stubborn, and hard to heal, the kind that has been disappointed just one too many times, and the kind of heart that keeps beating while our minds try to make sense of everything. So in that respect, Ryan Adams is essentially a country singer, for nobody can sing about a broken heart better than he can, and no album displays his gift as well as 2000’s “Heartbreaker.”
The album, for the most part, is stripped down to just acoustic guitars, piano, and Adam’s withered harmonica and voice, singing of youth, bad love, and everything in-between. From missing his home and family (“Oh My Sweet Carolina”), to a love turned sour (“Why Do They Leave?”), to the things he loves that are slowly killing him (“To Be The One”), Adams creates the perfect soundtrack for those nights of reflection on what could have been, what should have been, and what it all means.
The album is more folk than country, so those country-haters can ease up a bit. But make no mistake, this is a country record, and a darn good one too. There are no weak tracks on the entire record, and very few album are filled with the kind of emotion Adams is able to express. This is an album for all of us who have ever felt alone, defeated, and heartbroken, which is all of us at certain times. Adams continues to make more albums, some of them good and some of them alright, but this is easily his greatest moment.
Essential Tracks: “To Be Young”, “In My Time Of Need”, and “Oh My Sweet Carolina”
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber