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Ryan Adams

Jacksonville City Nights – 2005 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Brian Steinberg

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CDs by Ryan Adams

You'd think an artist as prolific as Ryan Adams has been in the last few years would find it difficult to stick to a certain kind of genre over the course of an album. And indeed, his sprawling major-label debut, "Gold," included everything from a Stones-y rave up to soulful ballads tinged with Van Morrison. After spelunking into 1990s style rock on "Rock n Roll" and dirgeful melodrama on "Love Is Hell," however, Adams is making some of the most focused - and best - music of his career. "Jacksonville City Nights" is the countrified cousin to "Cold Roses" the jam-band-y double disc he released earlier this year with his band, the Cardinals.

Where "Roses" contained echoes of the Grateful Dead, "Jacksonville" pares things back to simple country laments and rambles, such as "Trains" or "A Kiss Before I Go," which reminds one of Gram Parsons' solo work. Adams goes for broke on some of his vocal turns, while the band sounds close and crammed together - a good thing. Adams' more rock-oriented fans may not take to this album as quickly, but it shows him in great spirits and in the midst of a streak. He's due to release a third album this year, and we'll have to see where it takes him.