No Jail Can Contain Ryan Adams!
Ryan Adams has, in my opinion, produced so much great music over the years that when I hear he has a new album or even a one off song coming out then I get a tad excited. His new album, ‘Prisoner’ is with us in mid-February and having had the chance to hear it already I can tell you that my excitement was very much justified.
I feel that you often never know which Ryan Adams you are going to get. Will it be the alt.country man, the singer songwriter, the punk, the storyteller, the rock star, the troubadour, the interpreter of others songs (Oasis, Taylor Swift) or probably even more. Well a lot of those facets are present on ‘Prisoner’. A couple times he even sounds like a young Springsteen or even the ghost of Gram Parsons.
The album kicks off with the stunning “Do You Still Love Me?” The almost pastoral organ refrain of the intro fools you into thinking that it will be a sad and maybe even depressing song. But it’s not, it is a truly epic rock song that may just be a break up song as well. It is also the single released in 2016, which heralded the release of Ryan’s sixteenth solo studio album. The fact that these were released over a period of eighteen years is remarkable by today's standards where most established artists release a new album every four or five years.
“Doomsday”, the album’s third single, is a great example of less is more. Adams is one of the greatest lyricists of his generation and a song asking whether your love will love you until doomsday could well be put over in a ham-fisted way by many others, but not Ryan. One particular couplet I found stunning in its simplicity and impact ‘My love, how can you complicate a kiss?'
No pun intended but one of the most beautiful and haunting songs on this record is “Haunted House”. After the album opener that is the one that has stayed in my head the most. The second single was “To Be Without You” and this is a raw song about coming to terms with loss, well that is what it feels like to me. The production on the album is sharp but sparse and it makes me want to hear these songs put across by Ryan with just an acoustic guitar.
The song which for me has a Springsteen styling is “Outbound Train” and it is for me the stand out track on this album. But I am sure that everyone will have their own favourite. If you set out to pick a bad track from this album I think that you would fail. Is this the best ever Ryan Adams album? Well that probably depends on my mood, but it has the hallmarks of a great Ryan Adams album. If you’re a fan then no doubt you already have it in your sights or on your wish list. But if you have never really listened to him this would not be a bad place to start.