Monday, October 20, 2008

Jacksonville City Nights - Ryan Adams & the Cardinals (Autumn Records 2008)

Jacksonville City Nights

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
Lost Highway Records.

SCQ Rating: 90%

Dear John,

Not a single note from this record belongs anywhere but in Autumn, that Autumn, when our street was cast in a month of harvest colours – an eternity by Fall’s clock – and I felt these songs kick up like dust from the front lawn. There wasn’t a whole lot else on my agenda, anyway; I’d work the weekdays in the concrete gutter of freight trucks and forklifts, then wander home beneath the glow of evening century trees. Most of all, I hung around waiting for you, sitting by the bay-window and collecting bottles like they were worth something to anyone else.

I don’t live there anymore, in case you ever wondered. Wherever I am now feels continents and persons removed from that street or the way I walked then. You can’t run from that, so who could bother trying. You only hope to find enough miles of distance from yourself that the two yous can live their lives without ever meeting again. Maybe that doesn’t add up to you, but I bet I’m still kicking somewhere round that red bungalow, cities away, listening to ‘Hard Way to Fall’s sad-choirboy chorus, and making myself sick. Still staring out at the roadside hills to the pedal-steel sighs of ‘Games’, still catching my reflection, long-haired and pale-faced to the slow pilgrimage of ‘Peaceful Valley’. When I hear these songs now I know that part of me’s still there waiting.

You know I could borrow my brother’s car, head down that barren highway and look in those windows. I could tap my wheel to ‘The Hardest Part’ or ‘Trains’ all the way through the small towns and wide farmland divides till I’m right there, on the drive, staring at the blackened windows you could’ve burnt out with me. Pull that dirty piano bench and pen a few of ‘Silver Bullets’ lonely keys that still play, find the back-shed empties that were whiskey to the veins of ‘My Heart is Broken’. Or turn out the light and listen for creaks in the house, aches in the walls, any step on the stairs that could’ve been you. But it’s ‘PA’ all over again, and the same news through the floorboards I always tried to ignore. You were gone.

I’d toss Jacksonville City Nights like the rest but lord it feels good; each song a separate rustling of leaves, each lyric a cut I’m proud to bare. You always said Love is Hell was your suicide letter, but it has nothing on this. Or me. We really lived for awhile, John. We really grew up together.


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