Ryan Adams (born David Ryan Adams; November 5, 1974) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, and poet. He is best known for his prolific solo career, during which he has released fifteen albums, and as a former member of alternative country band Whiskeytown, with whom he recorded three studio albums.
In 2000, Adams left Whiskeytown and released his debut solo album, Heartbreaker, to critical acclaim. The album was nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize. The following year, his profile increased with the release of the UK certified-gold Gold, which included the hit single, “New York, New York“. During this time, Adams worked on several unreleased albums, which were consolidated into a third solo release, Demolition (2002). Working at a prolific rate, Adams released the classic rock-influenced Rock N Roll (2003), after a planned album, Love Is Hell, was rejected by his label Lost Highway. As a compromise, Love Is Hell was released as two EPs and eventually released in its full-length state in 2004.
After breaking his wrist during a live performance, Adams took a short-lived break, and formed The Cardinals, a backing band that would accompany him on four of his next studio albums. In 2009, following the release of Cardinology (2009), Adams disbanded The Cardinals and announced an extended break from music due to complications from Ménière’s disease. The following year, however, Adams resumed performing and released his Glyn Johns-produced thirteenth studio album, Ashes & Fire, in 2011. The album peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard 200. In September 2014, Adams released his fourteenth album, Ryan Adams, on his own PAX AM label, and formed a new backing band, The Shining, to support the release.
In 2015, Adams released 1989 a song-for-song cover of Taylor Swift‘s album of the same name, and worked on up to eighty songs for an album influenced by his divorce from his wife Mandy Moore. The release, Prisoner, was announced in late 2016.
Prisoner is the sixteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Ryan Adams. It was released on February 17, 2017. The album is Adams’ first album of original material since his 2014 album, Ryan Adams, and was preceded by the singles “Do You Still Love Me?”, “To Be Without You”, and “Doomsday”.
Do You Still Love Me?—-From the very opening strains that greet you with this release, the melancholy almost bristles. Adams enters with a bit of an aggressive vocal that is almost in contrast with the mellow feel of the music underneath the slight bombast of the guitars and drums. The message is clear and fills me with a slight ache….incredible songwriting and delivery. I could totally hear Tom Petty singing this song!
Prisoner—-Jaunty and damn pleasant from the first note….the vocal is so distinctive…welcome and familiar. I smile with the irony of the lyrics and the gentle delivery that is somewhat surrounded by biting words. The Springsteen strains are unmistakable…..a damn good track.
Doomsday—-With the harmonica playing and the lazy guitar strumming, again you can understand the Bruce comparisons. This is a huge song…despite the lack of volume and energy. There is a really nice ghostly edge to the song. I love this….really need to investigate more of the albums he has released…..16 so far…..WOW!!!
Haunted House—-Really conjuring up a nice mix between Petty/Dylan and Springsteen, this has an incredible lonely and ghostly feel to the music and vocal. The overblown music of today should take notice that more is not necessarily better. The chorus of this track tends to live in your brain even after one simple listen. This is remarkable songwriting and musicianship.
Shiver & Shake—-Beautiful and stark…a nice ‘story song’ that sounds right off of Nebraska. The lyrics are so vivid…it is easy to put yourself right inside of the song. Adams delivers his finest vocal on this release so far on this track. Sadness and loneliness are easy to find here. It is impossible not to feel every word.
To Be Without You—-A bit more upbeat and country tinged, the vocal enters and puts you right back in the place Adams must have been when he recorded this set of songs. The track has a welcoming familiar sound to it….it is easy to imagine it playing constantly during the rough days we all have from time to time. This is exquisite music…delivered with mastery and emotion.
Anything I Say To You Now—-A bit more raucous and energetic, the guitar is more electric and filled with a nice energy. I like the melody line that runs through the bottom of the song. The vocal seems a little buried to me….the music …loud over the top of it. But still fantastic and intense.
Breakdown—-Returning to the acoustic feel of much of the record, the vocal is once again back in front of the mix and filled with angst and sadness as Adams almost pleads for help in stifling his overwhelming emotion. This is intensely personal and beautiful….you can’t escape the beautifully personal nature of this release.
Outbound Train—-Returning to full on Springsteen mode, this would fit perfectly on any of his releases. The comparison becomes tiresome…I know…but it is not just the music and/or vocal…it is the exquisite ability to tell a story in just over 3 minutes that is also a common denominator. Just a fantastic release…all the way through.
Broken Anyway—-Slight whispery music plays underneath the simple guitar chords that usher in the vocal. The song opens up wider with the onset of the chorus…leaving you wondering if this is the point when Adams finally accepted the defeat that a divorce brings. We are so much the better that he is willing to share such personal things with us.
Tightrope—-The slight echo that runs with the vocal over the scant and naked musical landscape paints a wintry picture of sadness and loneliness for me. Line after line of pain and angst makes you take pause and try to digest all of the hurt and the disdain for day to day life that you have to face despite whatever personal is happening in your life. This is intense….and damn beautiful.
We Disappear—-Wow……I almost though I was listening to Petty again as this song opened up….closing out this release with a song that makes you wonder if the bad memories are slowly fading….and the idea of moving on is more possible…..I hope for more optimism in the future…..this will forever live with me as a great journey though. Thanks Ryan!!!
***** out of 5