I asked a friend, a Ryan Adams expert (my label, not his), for some advice. I wanted to listen to something I hadn't heard before. Adams has many records. I have four of them. I took a peek at what All Music had to say about the records I wasn't familiar with. My friend mentioned how he liked a lot of "29." All Music had this to say about "29":
"After opening with the title track's straight-up rewrite of the Grateful Dead's "Truckin'," it slides into a series of quiet, languid late-night confessionals that all barely register above a murmur. It's like Love Is Hell transported to a folk/country setting, then stripped not only of its sonic texture but also its songwriting skeleton. Apart from "29" and to a lesser extent "Carolina Rain" and "The Sadness," these songs meander with no direction. The songs on 29 never have energy and they always feel incomplete, lacking either a center or a sense of momentum, nor ever conjuring the alluringly weary melancholia that carried Love Is Hell. Instead, it's the first time Adams has sounded completely worn out and spent, bereaved of either the craft or hucksterism at the core of his work."
As it happens, at this past weekend's record show, someone had a copy of "29" for the right price, so I bought it and have been listening. This record is a beauty. Like my friend, I like a lot of it, with my least favorite tracks being the "Truckin'" rewrite and "The Sadness," both cited (kind of) as the better songs on the record. Strange how we hear music differently.
I will say this. "29" is not an upbeat record. But the songs are powerful. Not having "energy" and "sounding completely worn out" seem like unfair descriptions. Johnny Cash sounded worn out on his Nine Inch Nails cover and that is one of the more powerful songs of the last 25 years.
"29" may not be for everyone, but I was knocked over by some of Adams "confessionals." Two of them are here.