Ryan Adams, it should be no surprise, has a few songs that can have the same impact, or greater, as “Call Me On Your Way Back Home” in the right circumstances. After going through some of my favorites, here are 20 more of his songs, in chronological order, that have left me gasping for air on more than one occasion.

It is not recommended that anyone listen to all of these in a row on a bad night.

1. Damn, Sam (I Love a Woman That Rains) (2000)
2. Mega-Superior Gold (2000)
3. Cracks in a Photograph (2000)
4. You Don’t Know Me (2000)
5. La Cienega Just Smiled (2001)
6. Wild Flowers (2001)
7. Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd. (2001)
8. Born Yesterday (2001)
9. You Will Always Be the Same (2002)
10. Desire (2002)
11. Dear Chicago (2002)
12. Afraid Not Scared (2003)
13. Please Do Not Let Me Go (2003)
14. Sweet Illusions (2005)
15. If I Am a Stranger (2005)
16. The End (2005)
17. Strawberry Wine (2005)
18. I Taught Myself How to Grow Old (2007)
19. My Love For You Is Real (2007)
20. I Love You But I Don’t Know What to Say (2011)


'Call Me On Your Way Back Home' another song that delivers a blow




The feeling of being blindsided by a familiar song, like a punch to the gut from an old friend, is something every deep music fan has felt more than once, I’m sure.

It was a few nights ago, while my iTunes was taking its usual tour throughout the 36,381 songs currently in the library when it landed on “Call Me On Your Way Back Home,” one of the standout tracks on Ryan Adams’ debut LP, Heartbreaker, itself a record seemingly made of standouts in its entirety. Stripped of context thanks to bouncing from Talking Heads to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to Lee Ranaldo to Van Halen to Ride to this, it hit a note that, basically, flattened me.

But how could it do that? How could a song I’ve heard hundreds of times hit me so strongly, on a night when I didn’t particularly have a lot on my mind, at a time when I wasn’t particularly sad or contemplative, when I wasn’t searching for the push and pull of an emotional song?

It’s the way the lyrics mix up the tempo while the acoustic guitar and rhythm remain steady underneath, the quivering voice punctuating a desperate lyric. When Adams is at his most heartfelt, his voice has an almost childlike draw where it begins to crack, seemingly unable to properly execute the words under the weight of emotion.

Call me on your way back home, dear
‘Cause I miss you
Honey, I ain’t nothing new

Why is this one of those songs? It gains such a status because of its deceptively simple construction. It’s one of those because, as personal and direct as it may have been while he was writing it, it remains universal enough to apply to anyone. In this song, the singer almost completely resigned to his fate, a life without this girl. Almost, because, like anyone who has been unwillingly left behind in the wake of a relationship, there’s nearly no way to cope in the moment.

So what’s left? Questions, coping and desperation. It’s that blank stare into a future that can be the most terrifying; a future that seems blank and empty and, worst of all, endless. The dead gaze into infinity without what was known as happiness can lead people to dark places.

And I just wanna die without you
Oh, I just wanna die without you
Yeah, I just wanna die without you
Without you,
Honey, I ain’t nothing new.

But he doesn’t die. This isn’t one of those stories. In the end, all he can do is ask that she won’t completely lose contact. Facing a life without her, he asks the last thing he can think to keep her in his life. Just, call me on your way back home. Call, and let me know that some of my words still carry meaning. Call, and let me know that a part of you still cares about me. Call, and maybe you’ll realize that this is your home, and you belong with me.

Of course, the requests of the desperate rarely work. That they have ever worked is all that keeps this charade alive, this last-gasp shot at maintaining a standard of love and romance. The void without those things is as daunting and terrifying as anything in the moment. But there’s no escaping it. She’s gone. But, maybe she’ll call. Maybe she’ll change her mind. It’s worth a shot.

In that simple notion, one so exquisitely expressed and so obviously felt in the singer, the world collapses for three minutes and 10 seconds. When your songs are absent-mindedly jumping from artist to artist, from track to track, it’s the best case scenario.

Oct. 22, 2012

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