You can't keep a wild man down. Ryan Adams, the lead force behind now-seminal alt.-country band Whiskeytown, is stepping out on his own for this effort, but really now, hasn't he always been on his own? Whiskeytown's lineup is an ever-changing permutation of like-minded musicians, and its music a constantly-shifting amalgam of stuff from the nexus of country and punk. Whatever Adams' M.O. and whatever Whiskeytown's ultimate form, the stuff it puts across is usually daring and edgy - and quite good, too.
The same is true on "Heartbreaker," on which Adams teams up with David Rawlings and Gillian Welch along with others to produce a startlingly excellent piece of work. Think of Adams as Paul Thomas Anderson, the young genius behind films like "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia," and you've got the trick. Those films are sprawling works, culled from a variety of genres, filled with an odd mix of characters.
This is the same way. Adams comes out swinging like a roadhouse Bob Dylan on "To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high);" brings out Emmylou Harris for a jaunty "Oh My Sweet Caroline" and melds swampy textures with CSN-type vocals for "Bartering Lines" (there might even be an "Ohio" guitar lick in there). Whatever. We'd all do well to spend less time trying to figure Adams out and more time listening to his music. It's going to be an interesting journey.