Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker (Deluxe Edition) album review

Expanded, three-disc reissue of the North Carolina singer-songwriter’s 2000 debut.

Ryan Adams Heartbreaker album cover

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As pathetic pleas to an ex- go, Ryan Adams’s line ‘Take me out, fuck me up, steal my records, screw all my friends behind my back’ mid-way through Heartbreaker takes some beating.

Recorded following the dissolution of his band Whiskeytown – and a break-up with his long-standing girlfriend, obviously – Heartbreaker announced the arrival of a singular talent; a country music singer raised on punk and metal who was never afraid to let his dark side show. Although he would save the title for a brace of 2003 EPs, Heartbreaker is largely – the rollicking Dylan-circa-’65 tribute To Be Young (Is To be Sad, Is To Be High) aside – Adams in ‘love is hell’ mode, a tear-stained, aching collection best ‘enjoyed’ with the curtains drawn and a bottle of red wine close to hand.

A second disc of demos and out-takes here suggests that Adams rather enjoyed himself during the two-week recording session though, with a jokey cover of Morrissey’s Hairdresser On Fire and a thrashing Punk Jam among the previously unreleased treats. The gorgeous War Horse might have made a fine addition to the original release, but Heartbreaker remains a beautifully formed debut from an artist who is rarely less than compelling.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.