Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ryan Adams

  • Heartbreaker [Bloodshot, 2000] Choice Cuts
  • Gold [Lost Highway, 2001] **
  • Demolition [Lost Highway, 2002] B+
  • Rock N Roll [Lost Highway, 2003] *
  • Love Is Hell Pt. 1 [Lost Highway EP, 2003] Dud
  • Love Is Hell Pt. 2 [Lost Highway EP, 2003] Dud
  • 29 [Lost Highway, 2005] C
  • 1989 [Blue Note/Pax Am, 2015] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Heartbreaker [Bloodshot, 2000]
"To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)" Choice Cuts

Gold [Lost Highway, 2001]
asked for Gram Parsons, they gave me Billy Joel ("Somehow, Someday," "The Rescue Blues"); **

Demolition [Lost Highway, 2002]
Hayseeds manqué who think he's betrayed his alt-country heritage should adapt to a world where traditionalism means not having a call out to the Neptunes. Tiny banjo fills, grand guitar solos, solo-acoustic, swelling strings that disguise your inability to distinguish between nuclear holocaust and breaking up with your girlfriend--they're all roots-rock now. With that tumescent ache in his voice, tunes easy as pickup lines, and a telltale tendency to vague out completely when saying anything you don't already know, Adams is a romantic egoist of the old school. Like every other alt-country hero worth spit, he assumed the pose because it gave him a way to look conceptual while knocking off some strophes. It's an excuse he's long past needing. Four albums boiled down to one--all right! B+

Rock N Roll [Lost Highway, 2003]
Sound effects, emotional affects, he's got 'em all ("Note to Self: Don't Die," "This Is It") *

Love Is Hell Pt. 1 [Lost Highway EP, 2003] Dud

Love Is Hell Pt. 2 [Lost Highway EP, 2003] Dud

29 [Lost Highway, 2005]
Adams's fourth and final 2005 CD--Cold Roses was a double, remember?--comprises nine verbose tales and laments. None are fast, six are slow, six amble past five minutes, and all seem to go on forever. Occasional rhythm tracks notwithstanding, the music is dominated by Adams's desultory guitar, please-not-more piano, and sensitive vocals. Although September's Jacksonville City Nights was the mess a lesser talent would have barfed up years ago, puffs of tune and vapor trails of feeling did waft briefly from its twangy swamp. These meanderings are the kind of indulgence that ends label deals. If I were Luke Lewis, all that would stop me would be the outpourings of personal vituperation and musical self-pity certain to ensue. C

1989 [Blue Note/Pax Am, 2015]
Chivalrous Nashville fellow traveler proves the superiority of younger fellow traveler by failing to top much less reinvent a single performance on her breakaway album, which he covers front-to-back like the gifted fanboy I guess he must be ("This Love," "I Know Places") **