red lights


A soft spoken boom

Ryan Adams - 29
(Lost Highway)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 1, 2006
Ryan Adams

Review by Andy Argyrakis

Sure alt country appreciators may miss Ryan Adams' time in Whiskeytown, but ever since he left the group, the singer/songwriter's spread around a wealth of stellar solo releases (despite a few duds). Ever since his 2000 Bloodshot debut Heartbreaker helped embody the phrase "insurgent country," the troubadour has taken a stab at that genre, old fashioned country, Americana, good old rock & roll, plus glimpses of pop (such as the crossover smash "New York, New York"). Obviously with these multiple paths in a span just over a half decade, Adams is certainly guilty of flooding the market with releases, though his most recent streak has been one of the strongest spurts he's had since going solo.

On the heels of 2005's double disc Cold Roses and its the honky tonk tinged follow-up Jacksonville City Nights, the tunesmith churns out 29, a folk focused project that rounds the bases with a soft spoken boom. Though an initial listen to the nine-track offering is much more subdued and sublime in nature than the preview two projects, Adams succeeds within its framework and once again adds a diverse streak to his songwriting. The easygoing acoustic glow of "Strawberry Wine" is one of the record's early anchors, expanding into nearly eight minutes worth of drunkin' metaphors sung in the style of old school Neil Young. The piano ballads "Blue Sky Blues" and "Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play That Part" adapt a much more sensitive side, offering some of the most hushed but beautiful reflections in Adams' repertoire to date.

However that isn't to say 29 lacks purely upbeat moments, such as a "Carolina Rain," which takes on the storybook approach of James Taylor but with much more snarling twang and a rebellious punch. "The Sadness" packs even more muscle, picking with a vintage western appeal and the scruffy side of Adams' chameleon-like pipes. It makes for an all around fulfilling collection that confirms this artist's inventive streak isn't hindered by a steady stream of products, but rather thrives once he's in the cycle of creating.

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