20 Essential Ryan Adams Songs

Falling in love with a new artist can be difficult. If you’re anything like me, you feel it’s your obligation as a fan to go back and learn the entire catalog, memorize every line up change of a band, understand which label put out each album, and so on. While researching music is inevitably more entertaining than practice problems for statistics or conjugating French verbs, I understand that when school rolls around, I have less time to devote to my favorite past time.

Last Tuesday, Ryan Adams released his fourteenth official studio album, a self-titled record put out on his record label Pax-Am. To put it simply, fourteen is a lot of albums. That means a lot of songs to listen to. I’ve been an avid fan since I started listening to Ryan Adams when I was 14, and at the time felt his catalog to be completely overwhelming. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowly but surely tackled nearly the entire thing. But if the casual fan wants to know a few more tracks by one of the greatest songwriters of our generation before they pick up the new album, it can be a hefty task.

Below, I have provided a comprehensive list of what I consider to be 20 essential songs by Ryan Adams to know before tuning in to his most recent release. Once you’ve gotten through a bit of this list, check out Sam Velazquez’s review over Ryan Adams’ brand new, self-titled album here.

“Come Pick Me Up”Heartbreaker, 2000

“Why Do They Leave?” Heartbreaker, 2000

“Call Me On Your Way Back Home” Heartbreaker, 2000

“The Rescue Blues”Gold, 2001

“When The Stars Go Blue”Gold, 2001

“New York, New York”Gold, 2001

“Cry On Demand”Demolition, 2002

“Dear Chicago”Demolition, 2002

“Note To Self: Don’t Die”Rock N Roll, 2003

“The Shadowlands”Love Is Hell, pt. 1, Nov. 2003

“Please Do Not Let Me Go”Love Is Hell, pt. 2, Dec. 2003

“English Girls Approximately”– Love Is Hell, pt. 2, Dec. 2003

“Hotel Chelsea Nights”Love Is Hell, pt. 2, Dec. 2003

“Blue Sky Blues”29, 2005

“Goodnight Rose”Easy Tiger, 2007

“Two”Easy Tiger, 2007

“I Taught Myself How To Grow Old”Easy Tiger, 2007

“Chains Of Love”Ashes and Fire, 2011

“Lucky Now” – Ashes and Fire, 2011

“I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say”Ashes and Fire, 2011

Bonus: Ryan Adams’ discography is too extensive to only provide 20 songs. His work with alt- country band Whiskeytown is what put him in the public eye, and later he toured frequently with a backing band called The Cardinals. Below are five Whiskeytown songs and five Cardinals songs to expand your knowledge of his music even further.


“Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight”­- Stranger’s Almanac, 1997

“Indian Gown”Stranger’s Almanac, 1997

“Sit & Listen To The Rain”-Pneumonia, 2001

“Don’t Wanna Know Why”Pneumonia, 2001

“The Ballad Of Carol Lynn” Pneumonia, 2001

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

 “Magnolia Mountain”Cold Roses, 2005

“Dear John”– Jacksonville City Nights, 2005

“Blue Hotel”Follow The Lights, 2007

“Crossed Out Name”Cardinology, 2008

“Stop Playing With My Heart”III/IV, 2010