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Ryan Adams | Heartbreaker (Cooking Vinyl/Bloodshot)
Seemingly uncomfortable with the burden of expectation as the world awaits the appearance of Whiskeytown's third album, almost four years since the release of Strangers Almanac, Ryan Adams has taken something of a departure with his debut solo release Heartbreaker. Mostly electing for a more stripped down and predominantly acoustic sound, Adams has, for the most part, dispensed with any debts to either Gram Parsons or Paul Westerberg, who were probably the most recognisable influences on his spirited and impassioned alt-country template for Whiskeytown, long-hailed as the genre's wunderkind. Here the influence is more Dylanesque and Adams clearly relishes the role of the misunderstood, lovelorn troubadour, constantly on the move, searching via his songs for answers to life's relentless uncertainties. Recorded in just 14 days in Nashville earlier this year and produced by Ethan Johns, Adams is backed by the likes of David Rawlings (with whom he opens the album with an excerpt from an argument about Morrissey!), Gillian Welch and producer Johns. One of the undeniable strengths of Whiskeytown was the dimension added to the band by the voice of Caitlin Cary, a superb foil to that of Adams, their collaborations unmistakably influenced by the duets of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris twenty years previously. While Adams himself has a fine voice, his songs seem to achieve greater clarity and depth with the benefit of a female dimension. And it's the duets on Heartbreaker, where Adams is joined by Emmylou Harris on Oh My Sweet Carolina; Kim Richey on Come Pick Me Up; Allison Pierce on Why Do They Leave and Welch on both Bartering Lines and the rocking Gun Club-soundalike Shakedown On 9th Street that are the albums most memorable tracks. While the next, and allegedly final Whiskey-town album, should be released early next year, Ryan Adams has already begun writing his next solo album. On this evidence that's a prospect we should all be looking forward to.

Geraint Jones
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000

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