France in the 17th century had a special definition for the poet-musicians who could emote the intense internal feelings of courtly love in lyrical fashion – the troubadour. The tradition of poet-musician transformed in the 20th century to the concept of singer-songwriter, with the quality bar established by Bob Dylan. Prior to Dylan, the talented singer-musician tended to interpret the expressions of lyricists and composers such as Gershwin, Cole-Porter, and Irving Berlin, and reflected the personality of the song. not the internal workings of the performer. Dylan brought poetry to performance and changed the way the performer’s talents were considered. As one might imagine, with success and adulation came copy cats, and the pressure to achieve something with more depth than, say, “you love me, I love you, no matter what happens I will always be true,” seemed woefully insufficient. Performers like Van Morrison, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Gram Parsons, and other notables held up the troubadour standard, and with it, the concept of timeless music, true sound pictures not bound by their time or culture.
David Ryan Adams is a modern troubadour who carries the tradition onward, with intimate musical structure, themes of lost love and human struggle, and melodies of timeless beauty. With solo work of prodigious expanse, and group stylings with Whiskeytown and the Cardinals, he has elevated the song again to the forefront of the western musical expression in a fashion that would make the Tin Pan Alley songmeisters proud.