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Songs and Memories: Ryan Adams – “The Hardest Part”:

Ryan Adams – “The Hardest Part”

From about 2005 to 2006, I was under the impression that Ryan Adams could do no wrong. He was something like a contemporary Bob Dylan – brilliant, prolific, and unpredictable. I had just started Graduate School for Publication Design in the Spring of 2006. In retrospect, it was an odd move. While the program was a combination of Graphic Design and writing, I knew shit about Graphic Design.  My introductory course in Design was on Saturday Mornings (a schedule that did not fit my lifestyle at the time) and Adam’s music was almost always playing in my car during the commutes.

For me, Jacksonville City Nights was the highlight of the trio of albums that Adams released in 2005.  Adams has often been dubbed “alt-country”, but Jacksonville City Nights is the album where he hitches a ride on a boxcar and takes it through America.  It’s a real country album, filled with melancholy, girls that leaves imprints on your brain, and absence.

The album’s highlight “The Hardest Part” could be described as something of an acoustic rocker.  From opening chords, Adams pulls you along with his tale of wanting to get out and away from whatever it is that’s been bothering him. He’s paid his respects to the company store, and the company boys.  His hat has been tipped, and he’s out.  Naturally though, there’s some complications and the hardest part isn’t all the shit he’s been getting – it’s leaving the girl behind.  The bridge is where the song really takes a life of its own.   The acoustic guitars are strummed with the intensity of a punk song and Adams can barely contain himself:

I could stretch that penny like a silver line
Rolling through the pages of my life
Underneath your name where it’s underlined
I’ve been turned around
I’ve been mystified by a true love

Ever since I first heard it, I’ve grown attached to those lines.  I’m not quite certain whether its the lyrics themselves, or the way Adams sings them – desperate, out of control, and also tender.  Those lines would become the centerpiece for my final project in my Design Course.   The class was assigned to “redesign” a CD cover and booklet, and without even thinking I chose Jacksonville City Nights.  I put “The Hardest Part” on repeat while I sat and designed the booklet on my computer.  Even though I was a novice at Graphic Design, that wasn’t the hardest part.  It was cropping, spraying and mounting the finished piece that proved to be a hassle.  Without realizing it, I bought boards that were too thick for the razor-blade, and in the process I sliced my fingers open a couple of times.  After numerous attempts, I finally finished it and ended up with a lower grade mainly based upon my shoddy presentation with the mounting.

If I had any shame, I would never let this piece see the light of day.  Luckily, I did get better at both Designing and the mounting.

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