Ryan Adam, the prolific singer songwriting, returns with his first album in almost three years. This time it is self-titled, self-produced, and self-assured. At the 39, Adams has already recorded fourteen albums both as solo artist & with his supporting band the Cardinals. That does not include his many side projects or original work with Whiskeytown. Some of these albums are modern classics, some of them are just great albums, and some are occasionally misses by comparison with past work. This time Adam’s transitions between down tempo anthems and upbeat rock, channeling the heartland Americana sound of the 80’s. You will hear more than just hints of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers throughout the album. You will also hear a restrained, mature musician.
Track opener “Gimme Something Good” is rocking lead track but also sets up clear expectations that Adams is still has inner demons that he is battling. Adams is often at his best as a singer and songwriter when he is pining about heartache or personal trials like fighting an inner ear disease the effectively put him on the sideline for past couple of years, which Adam gave as major influence for this album. He yearns for better days and appears ready to fight for them. An added bonus is Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers contributes some piano and organ work to insure you feel the heartland tug.
Even with the reverb rockers the alt-country veteran is has not completely lost his edge for the twanger side of song craft and proves it with the acoustic “My Wrecking Ball” . A country fable about a beat up car trying to make it down the road. Granted, that sounds like a tired country cliche but Adams manages to pull it off with out a hitch (pun intended).
Adams does a superb job producing. He also has producing credit for Jenny Lewis The Voyager, a fantastic album and some of her bets work to date. Clearly he is comfortable in the job and has given Ryan Adams the album a great balance and excellent pacing through out. The final three tracks do a fine job closing out the album. “I Just Might” showcases Adams maturity and some new found optimism singing “Somewhere underneath all the hope is the truth”.
This is an album that deserves to be listened to in completion several times to let the full depth of the lyrics and song writing resonate. It is Adams most cohesive and complete recent work when compared to his last few albums (all though those had their moments as well). Three years is near an eternity when it comes to a Ryan Adams release, but clearly Adams use the time effectively and delivered an excellent addition to his amazing discography.
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