Ryan Adams is an enigmatic musician, shifting constantly between Rock, Folk, Alt-Country, and the mildly ridiculous. ‘Prisoner’ – centered around the heartbreak of a previous relationship, was a welcome release after his previous album ‘1989’received generally mediocre reviews from critics, with Pitchfork giving it a harsh 4.0/10 (though this is hardly surprising given their tendency to shrink away from the mainstream with disgust). The damning reviews of the Taylor Swift cover album were more than fair given that the album itself was anything but imaginative, doing very little to produce real alternative versions of Swift’s songs.
The opening track on Prisoner marks a move towards rock rather than folk from Ryan Adams, who chooses this time to prioritise the guitar and drums in mixing rather than the vocals for ‘Do You Still Love Me?’. Saying that, the album tends to swap between multiple styles of Rock, Folk and Alt-Country as it progresses – mirroring Adams’ discography.
Ryan Adams tends to take inspiration from other artists in his songs. This album is no exception. ‘Do You Still Love Me’ would not sound out of place in a recent Waterboys album and ‘To Be Without You’ shares a similar finger picking style to James Taylor’s ‘Fire and Rain’. I wonder if its any coincidence these two tracks are two of the best on the album.
On the hole, the album is a winner, with there being no strikingly poor songs. Nonetheless, it gives off a feel of losing its way multiple times across the album. Songs like ‘Doomsday’, ‘Broken Anyway’ and ‘Tightrope’ only serve to separate the good songs on the album with the mildly disappointing. If you were to listen to this album straight through, you would be sure to skip at least a couple, not because they are bad, but because they lack the imagination of the better tracks. Choosing a standout track on this album is a hard task, given that at least a quarter of the songs on the album could easily make the bracket on another Adams release. I would give this album three stars.
Artist: Ryan Adams
Label: PAX AM/Blue Note Records
Release date: Feb 17, 2017
Play time: 42 mins
Standout track: Do You Still Love Me?