Friday, November 11, 2005

Ryan Adams - Jacksonville City Nights

ARTIST     Ryan Adams

ALBUM     Jacksonville City Nights

LABEL     Lost Highway/Universal

Ok, I know this review is a little late. You’ve probably heard Jacksonville by now, but I’ve found it hard to make up my mind. In writing this I’m hoping to exorcise my indecision. I won’t throw the word prolific around but by the law of averages, due to sheer volume of songs Ryan releases, they won’t all be good. They were great on his first couple of solo releases, dipped a lot on Rock ‘n’ Roll, and returned to form on Love is Hell and most of Cold Roses. So is Jacksonville City Nights any good?

Yes and no. Everybody says it’s really country, its Adams trying to be Gram Parsons, and it is, but in a different way to Whiskeytown. And I like his country stuff, but some of this I can’t stomach. Norah Jones on Dear John misfires, I think he had to include it because she sang on it. Pa, and September return to the monanings and groanings of Love is Hell which seems a regression considering the heights of Cold Roses. But then some of the tracks are great which is where my problem lies. I love ‘the end’, ‘a kiss before I go’, ‘hardest part’ and similarly titled ‘hard way to fall’. The band feel is great, like a bar room, whiskey-soaked, honkey tonk piano and pedal steel group.

Lyrically the album treads now-familiar ground. There is lots of death, or suspicion of it (‘September’, ‘Pa’), the pains of love ‘the hardest part’ and missing a lover ‘kiss before I go’. Some tracks has Adams playing the rhyming game, trying to fit as many words as possible into the line. The UK version includes a wonderful version of ‘You were always on my mind’, Adams singing it as if it was written for his voice.
So I’m left if not sitting, if not on the fence, at least leaning against it. Jacksonville is a valuable addition to the Ryan Adams canon, but not the album I had hoped for. 29, his next release is meant to be 9 long sad songs, so perhaps Cold Roses was his best this year.

Do you agree? Leave a comment.

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