Third Time Not Quite a Charm for Ryan Adams

Since his breaking away from former band Whiskeytown and the release of 2000’s “Heartbreaker,” Ryan Adams has proven himself to be on of the most prolific songwriters of our generation.

His intuitive rock and roll craftsmanship mixed with his deep seeded love of honky-tonk has made him the poster child for the American alt-country movement.

And perhaps these reasons are why his third and final album for the year 2005, “29,” is such a disappointment.

Many initially questioned whether or not Adams had the tenacity or, to be blunt, talent to pull of his multi-album project, a task that proved difficult for even the likes of veteran rockers Frank Zappa and former Guided by Voices front man Robert Pollard.

After the blatant but accomplished Grateful Dead homage “Cold Roses” and throwback country masterpiece “Jacksonville City Nights,” most critics and fans seemed very optimistic about Adams’ conclusion to the trilogy.

Unfortunately upon pushing his backing band, The Cardinals, to the side, Adams decided to take the safe road that initially led him to fan-favorite “Heartbreaker,” while neglecting to take all he has learned since 2000 about crafting an original and interesting rock album with him.

There are no standout songs on “29,” with the exception of title/opening track Twenty Nine (solely for the fact that it causes a common reaction from every listener, “Hey, this sorta’ sounds like “Truckin’).
That’s not to say these songs aren’t any good.

Fans will immediately recognize Adams’ standard heart wrenching lyrics about death, love gone awry and other undesirable aspects of life, as well as the poignant imagery that ties the whole affair together Furthermore, the somber and stripped down instrumentals from his earlier works return in full force.

Yet the album feels watered down and seems to all indicate an unnecessary retracing of footsteps for Adams.

Yes, “Heartbreaker” was a beautiful collection of minimalist alt-country and an astounding debut, but with the release of his second album, “Gold,” (which stepped up production value as well as overall song quality) and the critical failure of the demo collection “Demolition,” it seems that Adams should have know better than to think an artist can revert (in such a half-assed fashion) to a previous state in their career.

Despite its glaring flaws, “29” points to an artist whose heart is in the right place, but may have found himself with just a bit too much on his plate for the year 2005.

All signs point to a very promising follow-up album� if the guy gives himself a freaking vacation first!

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