Ryan Adams - 29
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29 (Lost Highway, 2005)

Ryan Adams

Reviewed by Jacquilynne Schlesier

Madness, sadness, love, crime, death, hope, drugs, booze and religion. Ryan Adams wrote the songs throughout his tumultuous and confusing twenties. It's a compelling confusion - full of complex stories and recurring themes that fit a cohesive concept.

A track that would have fit Adams' 2005 albums recorded with the Cardinals, "Carolina Rain" is all pedal steel and Southern Gothic storytelling. But "29" is a solo effort, with producer Ethan Johns providing most of the backing, so the tracks are stripped down. "Starlite Diner" is a wistful piece of nostalgia that uses piano to evoke a timeless moment in time. "Voices" is filled with fiery biblical themes, but is delivered with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a vocal that ranges from sleepy to an aggrieved falsetto.

"Strawberry Wine" is a surreal tale that meanders through life and death for nearly eight minutes. Not every track is successful - giving a track called "The Sadness" an uptempo, spaghetti western production is ironic, but not ironic enough to make it interesting - but most are. "29" is every bit as self-centered and indulgent as the twentysomething hipster life it covers, but Adams is a writer worth indulging.

CDs by Ryan Adams

Easy Tiger, 2007 29, 2005 Jacksonville City Nights, 2005

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