A lot of people who grew up in the '60s and '70s ask me why no one seems to be making records like the ones we grew up loving. I hear this all the time. We had Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Are there any young songwriters with that kind of intensity?
I want to tell you about some of the great male singer/songwriters who are out there now making records, playing to fans who hang on their every word -- and doing it under the media radar screen.
First up is a fella named Ryan Adams. Not Bryan Adams. RYAN Adams. He used to be in a group called the Whiskeytown. But now he's gone solo, and he's made an album that you could put on next to Neil Young's "After the Goldrush" or Joni Mitchell's "Blue" and it would stand up. These are just beautiful songs of heartbreak and lost love, with one good ghost story and a couple of great electric rockers that sound like Dylan around the time of "Like a Rolling Stone." If you're one of the old fogies who complains that they don't make 'em like they used to, you really want to check out this CD. It's called "Heartbreaker" and it's by (write this down) Ryan Adams.
Another album that sort of fell between the cracks is called "Normal for Bridgwater", and it's by an English singer named Peter Bruntnell. It took me about a month to get that name straight: Bruntnell. It's kind of blue, folkrock, a little like the Byrds, a little like the softer side of Tom Petty. Remember when you were a teen-ager? You'd have an album you loved to listen to in your room on rainy Sundays. This is the grownup version of that. Peter Bruntnell, "Normal for Bridgwater." If your record store doesn't carry it, ask them to order it for you. It's distributed by Ryko.
The real king of this particular hill has no albums out under his own name, but his influence is enormous. Jeff Tweedy is the leader of a group called Wilco, and everyone from Tom Petty to Bruce Springsteen to Mark Knopfler has pointed to him as the great young hope of rock songwriting. I know Tweedy did a solo tour recently, just him and his guitar and harmonica for two hours, and it was remarkable. He radiated complete authority on stage, took the audience through every emotion. He commanded the room by himself the way Dylan or Springsteen do. The expectations on this guy are enormous, but he seems to be the rare artist who rises to the highest expectations made of him.
It's kind of a hard time for singer/songwriters. The radio is dominated by teen pop and hiphop and rap metal, and there's almost no place for new Neil Youngs, new James Taylors, and new Gram Parsons. But the best singer/songwriters nver did it to get popular anyway. They did it because they had to do it. I think Ryan Adams and Peter Bruntnell are cut from the same cloth.
If you've been looking for someone new to remind you of why you fell in love with music in the first place, this is a good place to start.
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