Even loyal completists may hesitate before committing to this, the third collection human jukebox Ryan Adams has brought to market since last May. Recorded before his outings with the Cardinals (the double-disc Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights), this Ethan Johns-produced solo set offers nine competent songs that contribute little new to what is known, and appreciated, about his craft. It begins with a wordy autobiographical ramble down Adams' back roads, set to a distressingly imitative Grateful Dead shuffle. Then comes the one great song of the set, "Strawberry Wine," a misty-eyed tale of tragic endings that asks the musical question, "Can you still have any famous last words if you're somebody nobody knows?" From there, Adams, who does some songs solo and others accompanied by Johns and Cardinals guitarist J.P. Bowersock, drifts into abject sullenness, tossing too many tortured images into one overwrought love song ("The Sadness") and furnishing another ("Voices") with an uncharacteristically threadbare melody. Adams' desire to superserve his fans is admirable — and made total artistic sense on the ornate and beautiful Love Is Hell EPs — but this time, by sharing more he winds up saying much less. Somebody get this man an editor.
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