Ryan Adams - 29
Label: Lost Highway
Format: Vinyl, LP
Has lyric sheet
Style: Alternative Rock, Country Rock
Credits: Artwork By [Design] - Andy West
Engineer [Assistant] - Robert Fulps
Mastered By - Erick Labson , Steve Holroyd
Photography - Andy West , Danny Clinch , Jennifer Tipoulow , Jon Graboff , Ryan Adams
Producer, Recorded By, Mixed By - Ethan Johns
Notes: Recorded and mixed at Three Crows Studios (Los Angeles, CA) between the 2nd and 14th of August 2004.
Mastered at Universal Mastering Studios (Los Angeles, CA).
A1 Twenty Nine
A2 Strawberry Wine
A4 Blue Sky Blues
B1 Carolina Rain
B2 Starlite Diner
B3 The Sadness
B4 Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play That Part
29, the third(!) Ryan Adams album of 2005, is dark, moody, elegiac, and brooding. And quite good. It is the kind of record who's charms are less obvious, and which unfolds itself to you over repeated listenings, when you least expect it.
Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights were pretty clearly country records, both cut with his new (and, it turns out, evolving) band the Cardinals. Here we get an Adams solo record, absent the band vibe and the country touches that flavor the two previous releases, and more of a serious singer-songwriter turn. Many of the songs are intricate and finely drawn stories and character studies, heavy on the narrative. Indeed the songs are all like little movies, as opposed to hook-laden slices of pop. This record is like midnight at the Indie Cinema multiplex.
The opening track, "29," is a rewrite of the Grateful Dead's "Truckin'"-so much so that I thought it was a cover version until the vocals started. But he keeps it darker and more Westerberg than Weir, with acoustic guitars, electrics, and harmonica front and center in the mix; for all the obvious similarities to the Dead tune, it is more garage rock than hippie anthem.
"Strawberry Wine" is a slow plaintive story song in waltz time, sparse instrumentation, mainly Ryan's voice and acoustic guitars. "Night Birds" is a piano ballad, another minor key song, with a nice dramatic sonic effect that blends thunder and electric guitar on the refrain, "In the ocean..." By now it is clear that this is a "down" record, closer to Love is Hell than Gold, although it is always perilous to try and define a new Ryan Adams record in terms of an old one.
"Blue Sky Blues" is another downbeat piano song, Ryan's voice and piano augmented by a string section that enters midway through the song to amplify his mood and lend coloration. For a song with "blue sky" in the title, this one dwells an awful lot on rain.
"Carolina Rain" introduces some of the country lilt of the earlier records, especially through some tasteful pedal steel behind Adams's story singing. "Starlite Diner" is another piano lament, this time about a lost love.
"The Sadness" brings the guitars to the fore with a sort of Flamenco flavor, and the Spanish flair is deployed to bring drama to the song throughout. It is a highlight of the album, driving and visceral, yet still "small," in the way an Indie film is small, the way the whole record is drawn to scale.
"Elizabeth You Were Born to Play That Part" moves back to piano balladry. It is probably the prettiest song on the album, and serves as its climax and centerpiece, piano and acoustic guitar sweeping the listener away in a gentle swirl of melancholy as the protagonist laments yet another lost love.
"Voices" closes the record out, dark and foreboding, barely there, invoking vaguely religious imagery.
Resist the urge to compare 29 to Adams's previous work; with an artist this prolific, if you keep expecting the last record, you will be continually disappointed. My wife's one sentence review of 29: "I like it; it's a little sad but I like it." It takes me 400 words to say what she nails in a sentence. A small record in a good way, a sad record in a good way, a beautifully cinematic record that will reward repeated listening. Adams completes the hat trick and has got to be the unquestioned artist of the year.
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Carolina Rain
One of my favorite songs off Ryan Adams's 29 record. It is a murder mystery of sorts and also a love letter to North Carolina where he grew up. The lyrics are superb and Ryan illustrates his fantastic song writing skills in this great performance of a great song that paints a vivid picture in your mind. June 2007, London.
Ryan Adams singing Strawberry Wine live in Nottingham, February 2006.
Ryan Adams - Nightbirds - HOB San Diego
this song is so beautiful. ryan is amazing live, you never know what to expect.