Ryan Adams, “Ryan Adams”

Ryan Adams Self-TitledRyan Adams
Ryan Adams
PAX-AM/BLUE NOTE
7/10

Once a self-destructive headline-grabber, Ryan Adams’s profile has been respectively subdued as of late. That is, unless you are talking about the high quality of his brand-new self-titled album. The public’s warm reception to the singles suggests that the artist may be having a renaissance, only this time the headlines are about the music instead of his antics. Ryan Adams is at once familiar, immediate, and perhaps the best-sounding of his career.

While a modern roots rocker’s (a sect of which Adams is “drunk uncle” emeritus) current arsenal centers around acoustic instruments and even—sigh—banjos, with this album, Adams reminds us that the overdriven electric guitar once held sway. He wields it masterfully, busting out riff after riff, and when an acoustic guitar is called into action, it feels welcome rather than forced. Opener “Gimme Something Good” combines Keith Richards–like riffage with smooth Don Henley–sounding vocals, and sets a high standard for the ten tracks that follow. Yet the rest of the album rises to the occasion, balancing rockers such as the above, with acoustic, bare-bones one-mic/one-take lovelorn lamentations that recall Springsteen’s Nebraska. Ryan Adams brings together everything that makes for great rock and roll, from Stonesy swagger to AM radio hooks.

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