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|Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
Jacksonville City Nights (Lost Highway)
29 (Lost Highway)
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
On the heels of Cold Roses and some excellent
2005 shows, Ryan Adams faced the daunting task
of completing his promised trilogy for 2005. One
double album is usually enough to satisfy an
artist’s audience for at least a year, maybe two. Two
albums in a year is an absolute rarity, and three is
just over the top.
But really, has there been a more prolific, over the
top artist in the last 20 years? Adams has churned
out records, albeit a few unreleased, with a ferocity that only Neil Young in the mid-1970s could match. Other
than Heartbreaker, Gold, Love is Hell and Rock N Roll, there was The Suicide Handbook, Pink Hearts, and 48
Hours, the cream of which was skimmed down into Demolition. Add on the Finger’s We Are Fuck You and
Whiskeytown’s four records, and that amounts to incredible production for just eight years. And when you
consider the actual strength of all that material, it becomes downright astounding.
This year, he could have easily distilled the best of his three albums into one disc, but he decided to really
deliver on every spit and gurgle his creativity would allow, and we’re the better for it.
Jacksonville City Nights, co-billed with the Cardinals, finds Adams in his most country self since Whiskeytown,
but none of the rock power of his previous work is lost. The sheer emotion with which he sings “The End” is
stunning, as is the raw simplicity of “September” or “The Hardest Part.” On this album, he sounds like he means
every syllable that pours from his mouth, all at once yearning to a lost time and reinventing the scope of
29 is his most homespun effort since Heartbreaker. While the opening title track, a rocker reminiscent of the
Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’,” gives the album an upbeat mood to get the festivities rolling, it is a misleading one,
because most of this album is solo Adams. Sounding weary and worried, songs like “Voices” and “Strawberry
Wine” are carried with just his acoustic guitar and his ever-soaring voice. It’s not a party record, but it’s lonely
Sunday night at its absolute best.
What all three of his 2005 albums share is his renewed faith in his own voice. More and more, Adams relied on
his incredible range to carry songs and entire albums, leaving the rock-by-numbers shtick aside to let his inner-
self shine through.
And Adams’ voice is one of the best we’ve ever heard in the rock era. So here’s hoping he feels comfortable and
creative enough to let it shine through for years to come.