Ryan Adams 29

Ryan Adams 29
Remember the good old days when people would only release two albums a year? Seriously, Ryan Adams has always pushed his fans’ patience, but luckily he’s had a pretty good streak in the past 12 months with Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights, so this final instalment of the trilogy — made without the entire line-up of his band the Cardinals (J.P. Bowersock being the lone exception) — comes with at least modest expectations. While this period of his songwriting has been characterised by an infatuation with the Grateful Dead, Jacksonville also harkened back to the more traditional country of Adams’ Whiskeytown days, with favourable results. For its part, 29 continues in that direction, albeit in much more stripped-down and raw settings. Sure, the album opens with a title track that’s basically a punk-y rewrite of the Dead’s "Truckin’,” but from there things get a lot more intimate, with the delicate, back porch vibe of "Strawberry Wine,” and the atmospheric piano ballad "Nightbirds.” In fact, the piano is generally Adams’ instrument of choice this time out, and he skirts the edge of sentimentality whenever he sits down at it, as on "Blue Sky Blues,” where strings make an appearance as well. Yet, somehow, he manages to keep his footing by digging deep for what may be his most personal collection of songs since the now-acknowledged classic, Heartbreaker. As long as Adams keeps putting out records at this rate, the charge will always be levelled that one album a year will suffice. But on each release, Adams has been able to give it a distinctive stamp, which, in the end, is the mark of a true artist, no matter what your opinion of him is. (Lost Highway)