Alright, listen. Everyone else worth a damn knew about Ryan Adams for years already—whether they liked him and his prodigious discography or not. Meanwhile, I was living under a rock. Never mind that I was 13 when this song came out. That’s no excuse!
But better a late start than nothing at all, I suppose. If you are one of the few people who, like me, wasn’t familiar with Adams until his self-titled album came out last year, let me say with certainty that this song, that album, and portions of his rambling back catalog, are exactly what you’re looking for. He’s a fine quiet songwriter when he wants to be, but I prefer hearing him going flat-out, like he does here. “Beautiful Sorta” is some grade-A, pesticide-free, artisanal rock & roll music.
The best musicians find ways to stand clichéd chord progressions on their head in such a way that they become something new, which is precisely what Adams does by stalling himself out in the middle of the standard blues shuffle guitar part. This spring-loads the introduction to pop right into the verses. Rock & roll has to have a relentlessness to it and Adams’ rhythm section understands this, helping to keep that initial energy throughout the track.
The short bridge at 2:14 gives you just enough time to catch your breath before you’re caught once more in this moment of pure musical catharsis.
Who cares if it sounds like they’re actually singing “beautiful soda?”