It was the summer of 2014 and Andrew Johnston and the Hurricane were set to play another one of our celebrated artist tribute nights at Bistro de Paris in Montreal, this time in tribute to the great Ryan Adams. One of the songs that I knew had to go on the setlist was “La Cienga Just Smiled.”
The Model Children
When I was in my early 20s, I was living in a loft in the mile end neighborhood of Montreal, and playing in a rock and roll band called the Model Children. It was an intense experience and the band was made up of some larger than life personalities. Being in that band felt like waging war: every time we went into the practice space, it was an all out street fight to get your ideas across.
Against this backdrop I fell in love with a whip smart, diminutive journalism student who had a small apartment across from the Beaudry metro in the gay village. Going there was a blessed retreat in my life. A sweet pocket where I could get away from the domineering personalities, noise, and intensity.
The journalist was also a music fan, and worked for a well known in-flight magazine. She would often score free CDs from the office and we would work our way through them in time.
One of these CDs was Ryan Adams’ Gold which is packed with great songs.
La Cienga Just Smiled
One in particular, “La Cienga Just Smiled,” featured a simple, plaintive piano figure set against a gently strummed, persistent acoustic guitar. The song told the tale of the immediate aftermath of a break up, where the character wonders how he could “end up feeling so bad, for such a little girl.”
It was at the end of our second summer together that the journalist decided to uproot and move across Canada to Edmonton. During my last visit to her place I grabbed the CD and said “I’m keeping Gold.”
Flash back to the summer of 2014, and as my luck would have it, I managed to get through this song live without making too many mistakes. My wife even managed to record the song, and we were so pleased that we put a version of it up on Youtube. I tweeted @TheRyanAdams about the video and called it a night. The next day when I woke up there was a notification in my inbox waiting for me. Ryan Adams himself had checked out my video and favourited my tweet!
— andrew johnston (@andrewjmusic) May 29, 2014
Now I know that me and Ryan Adams aren’t really buddies, and he probably only watched it for like 2 seconds, but in some small way I feel that something passed between us in that interaction. And to me I took it as a small serendipitous sign that in life it’s best to push forward, take chances, and reach out.
Rock N Roll
Another Ryan Adams song that I played that night is called “Rock and Roll,” a track that seems to perfectly capture how I feel about making music, and my place in the Montreal music scene. In fact, I enjoyed covering it so much at the tribute show, that I decided to go into the studio with my band the Hurricane and record a full blown cover.
My version is a bit of a departure from the original with it’s loud distorted guitars and overdriven vocals, but it was a blast to get to record the track!
The track is not currently available for sale but as a thank you for being one of my subscribers I want to give it to you for free – no strings attached.
Download my version of Rock and Roll here.
If you like the track you might also consider checking out “Brace for Impact.” It’s my latest album and it’s full of folk-rock tunes that I like to think would make Ryan himself proud 🙂