This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I don't know why I am drawn to moody singer-songwriters whose only tools are an acoustic guitar and a story to tell, but I figure it goes back to a love of Bob Dylan that was cemented when I did a project on Dylan in high school. Later, at the Coast Guard Academy, we were asked to write and present a speech on someone who was a great leader, and I chose Dylan over such nautical heroes as Douglas Munro and Admiral so-and-so.
Ryan Adams, who I first got to know through Whiskeytown, is now a solo artist and married to Mandy Moore. (The latter fact is not important, except for the fact that I have a crush on her.) He was preternatually gifted with the alt-country pioneering band Whiskeytown, and I looked for a YouTube video of their song "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart," which is one of the better stabs at a true blend of country and rock ever done. The song I ended up posting is from Whiskeytown's final album, which at that point was essentially a Ryan Adams solo alum. I remember listening to that album on bike rides along the swamps of Morgan City, Louisiana, where I lived for three years as a boat inspector in the Coast Guard. I wasn't a "soldeier" referred to in the song, but it was pretty close to being just as dirty and morale-depleting. The song reminded me of how home-sick I was, and isn't that what great art does it makes you sad.
Here are two renditions of the song:
From the song:
Well, Jacksonville's a city with a hopeless streetlightSeems like you're lucky if it ever change from red to greenI was born in an abundance of inherited sadnessAnd 50-cent picture frames bought at a five-and-dime I ended up a soldier on the weekendLooking for a vacancy I wasn't able to findSomewhere the night sky hangs like a blanketShoot it with my cap gun just to make itSeem like stars