FUV's New Dig: Ryan Adams
Blue Note / Pax Am (Pax Americana) Records
It's been 14 years and 14 albums since Ryan Adams stepped away from the band Whiskeytown and began his solo career with the acclaimed Heartbreaker. His last album, Ashes & Fire, was released in 2011, and now he offers us a new effort, simply known as Ryan Adams. For many artists, a three-year gap between albums is not unusual, but for the prolific Adams, it seemed like a lifetime.
But don’t imagine he was just sitting back taking a breather. In that interim, Adams worked on an album that he ultimately scrapped, got involved producing other artists' work, and even helped start a new band, Pornography.
Plus away from his career in music, Adams faced some big life challenges. His excesses finally forced him to get sober, and he's had to deal with a serious hearing disorder that could have put his career in jeopardy. (And to balance matters with something pleasant, he married singer/actress Mandy Moore in 2009.)
Ryan Adams was recorded at his own Pax Am Studio in Hollywood. Adams wrote all the tunes, and produced the album as well, with help from Mike Viola (of Candy Butchers fame) on roughly half the songs. In addition to Viola, guests include the Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench on keyboards, and the incredible Tal Wilkenfeld on bass. Even actor Johnny Depp and wife Moore make appearances.
Having now reached a new plateau in his life, it makes sense that he decided to self-title this album. It is the work of a confident, self-assured artist who has moved beyond personal obstacles and conquered life’s hurdles. Ryan Adams is focused; the rough patches and excesses of some of Adams' past albums have been smoothed out. Ranging from the album’s Classic Rock-inspired “Gimme Something Good,” which opens the album, to the powerfully understated “My Wrecking Ball,” Ryan Adams is a lean, mature rock and roll record that is sure to become a shining jewel in Adams’ beloved canon of work.