Music Review: Ryan Adams – “Ryan Adams”

ryan-adams

This post originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

Ryan Adams has made a career out of being predictably unpredictable. In his 13 solo albums, three albums with band Whiskeytown, and a handful of collaborations, EPs, and singles, Adams has put his eclectic musical range on full display. At times he’s a brooding, acoustic singer-songwriter writing about heartbreak and singing twangy harmonies with Emmylou Harris. Others, he’s aggressively punk rock, shouting over lo-fi guitar riffs and thumping drums.

On his fourteenth album, the self-titled Ryan Adams, Adams finds himself closer to his alt-country rock roots with an album that is pure rock and roll. Here, Adams asserts himself as a member of the neo-classic rock genre: young, relatively new artists (think Haim, Jenny Lewis, The Black Keys, etc.) of the aughts whose sound is unapologetically influenced by classic acts of decades past. If you didn’t know Ryan Adams was just released this past September, you could easily assume upon listening that the album was recorded any time from the late 1970s through the ’80s.

Ryan Adams is a clear departure from Adams’ last album, 2011’s Ashes and Fire, an acoustic album full of heart-shattering slow jams and sorrowful ballads. This time around, he goes for electric guitar riffs and catchy hooks, with nods to classic rock artists like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.

“Trouble” sounds like it could be a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers track — and how could it not with Hearbreakers’ keyboardist Benmont Tench playing on the album? “I Just Might” has Bruce Springsteen’s fingerprints all over it, with Adams channeling his low, rhythmic recital of lyrics.
Recorded at Adams’ entirely analog studio, Pax-Am, there is a warmth and lived-in feeling to the music. Add that to the nostalgic influences and the album feels like a familiar old friend, though his signature introspective lyrics keep it fresh enough to want more.

Whereas past albums have leaned more heavily towards one side or the other — upbeat or ballad-y — Ryan Adams finds the perfect balance. The lead single “Gimme Something Good” charges forward. The follow-up single, and the album’s powerful, acoustic ballad/gutpunch, “My Wrecking Ball,” falls in the middle, closing side A on a quiet pause, only to have side B pick the tempo right back up with “Stay With Me.”

Ryan Adams is an album for both Saturday night and Sunday morning, one that won’t disappoint either occasion.

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