Ryan Adams "Ryan Adams"

After a three year break Ryan Adam delivers a stellar guitar-driven album.

You are forgiven if you come to the assumption that Ryan Adams is dealing with another rough patch in his life. The first track on his self-titled albums begins “I can’t talk…” while the second begins “I can’t sleep.” The man’s battles with broken hearts and alcoholism are legendary, but the truth is, despite a struggle with an inner-ear disease that threatened his livelihood, the man appears to be content. He’s happily married (to Mandy Moore), and sober (with the exception of an occasional bowl for inspiration). It’s just that Adams is so good at capturing the broken places within the living process – why mess with a good/bad thing.

Following a period of furious activity which produced thirteen albums in eleven years, Adams took three years between his latest effort and 2011’s Ashes and Fire. Throughout his solo career he often released more than two albums a year, and his music took unpredictable directions, often straying from the alt-country on which he established his career to punk rock excursions and dalliances with pop. After recording an album that reportedly cost the artist a pretty penny, Adams shelved it and began anew.

This self-titled album refocuses on both his style and his introspective approach to lyrics. The eleven tracks center on Adam’s strengths – folk and country-tinged rock with delicate melodies and restrained but precise production.  Like a lyrical pugilist, Adams doesn’t waste time with extraneous gabs, opting instead for the big take down punch to the gut. Details are insignificant, emotions are the objective. Adams possesses a voice that breaks with the ache of loss and disappointment, and rises with the tide of a song.  He’s also surrounded himself with superb group of musicians that includes Tal Wilkenfeld, Benmont Tench, Mike Viola, and Jeremy Stacey.

Although Adams has indicated that inspiration for the album came from listening to the music of The Smiths and The Velvet Underground, you can’t help but think of Springsteen when you hear “Trouble” a song that features wife Mandy Moore on backing vocals. Johnny Depp (yes, the actor) offers a very Johnny Marr-ish guitar hook to “Kim” and “Feel Like Fire.” Although Adams supplies plenty of gorgeous ballads this is a guitar driven album, and is easy one of his best releases to date.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)

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