There are generally two sides to Ryan Adams releases, those that take on the full bodied, more electric sound - until recently captured on record as Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - and a softer more intimate guise. This latest release certainly falls into the latter, which is no bad thing. Over the ten or so albums Adams has released in the last 12 years, there has collectively been enough grade A material to have filled three, possibly four amazing albums at best, though nothing yet has quite matched the excellence of 2001’s ‘Gold’. 2011’s ‘Ashes and Fire’, widely regarded as a return to form by many, came as close as he has yet.
This self-titled album is very much a continuation of that path forged by its predecessor, a heartening mix of sombre country rock (the desolate sounding ‘Shadows’) and the catchy Adams of old featured on the lead single ‘Gimme Something Good’. Thematically this is the Ryan Adams we have grown to love, all dusty highways, smoky bars and moments of gentle personal introspection spread across 11 tracks.
Yet comforting familiarity aside, occasionally tracks like ‘Feels like Fire’ sound as though Adams is on cruise control, with brief flashes of rehashed older melodies (‘Anybody Wanna Take me Home’ springs to mind) from his back catalogue making an appearance. This really is only a relatively minor gripe when looking at the album as a whole. The fact that the majority of tracks are vaguely consistent and less sprawling than a lot of his output over the past decade already places this release above those released in the mid-2000s.
There’s the electrifying ‘I Just Might’ in which Adams channels a whole load of Springsteen’s spirit through the speakers, showing that the fire that propelled him into millions of hearts since the ‘Heartbreaker’ days is still burning strong. Equally, whilst there are no real lows on the album, the highs are equally not of the sky-scraping variety, ‘Let Go’ ending the album on a quiet if easily forgettable note.