In the three year period since ‘Ashes & Fire’ ex Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams hasn’t exactly kept a low profile. His production credits during this period include Fall Out Boy, Ethan Johns and Jenny Lewis, he even formed a band oddly called Pornography to release a single. Not bad for someone who is also running his PAX AM record company / website business.
Originally it looked like Adams was working on another project with ‘Ashes’ producer Glyn Johns but this is not that record. This self-titled album is quite glorious, produced by Adams and Mike Viola it brings together all of the many influences we associate with Adams but they don’t seem quite as intrusive as they have been on occasion in the past (and yes I am a fan).
The material on this album really is top class as opener ‘Gimme Something Good’ sets the scene with its lazy, edgy guitar chops, light tremolo flourishes and lashes of organ builds to a strong, almost anthemic, chorus. ’Stay With Me’ is similar musically and to these ears, maybe even better. Speaking of influences ‘Trouble’ all rumbling bass and ringing guitars is reminiscent of early Tom Petty while the driving ‘Am I Safe’ is upbeat musically if not lyrically. The centrepiece of the album has to be the claustrophobic ‘Shadows’ which draws you in and envelops you with its fuzzy, distorted guitars building and dominating the soundscape. Elsewhere, fans of ‘Ashes’ have the acoustic ‘My Wrecking Ball’ which is pure Adams at his very best.
The Tom Petty comparison I find interesting as the early Heartbreakers material seemed to sit perfectly in a grey area between classic rock and the new wave acts of the time. Ryan Adams has always seemed equally comfortable in his own skin no matter what the genre he was exploring at any given time. The three year gap seems to find him energised and ready to go with what is one of the best albums of his career.