Ryan Adams doesn't veer far from what we might have expected, however. It's a stellar example of the kind of well-produced record many have been anxiously awaiting for over a decade. Adams is front and centre, backed by a well-practiced group of studio players, delivering 11 cuts that expertly walk the line between rock, folk and alt-country. The edges are rounded, with a big, chiming sound that make the record instantly listenable.
Yet, like 2011's Ashes & Fire, the album feels incredibly safe. While Adams' muse has, at times, produced as many head scratchers as classics, his inconsistency and willingness to follow musical urges wherever they may lead gave his music a sense of danger. It also inspired fans and critics to demand that their golden goose just sit down and focus, rather than pursue oddball musical larks (remember his heavy metal album, Orion?). As with all of his records, it's better to view Ryan Adams in the context of his career, rather than on its own, which makes this a very strong contender in a surprisingly dense field. (Pax-am)