Design By Humans
Published On: Mon, Jan 30th, 2017

Ryan Adams: Prisoner

ryan aRyan Adams
(Blue Note)

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The swirling organ on “Do You Still Love Me” flows into spiky power chords as Ryan Adams wails about his lover, for the opener of his latest, Prisoner. Supposedly whittling down 8o songs into the 12 here on his 16th solo record, Adams presents his top-notch songsmithing once again in an album made up of songs that came to Ryan during his divorce from Mandy Moore. A harmonica leads “Doomsday” to a driving, haunting chorus. Ryan’s vocal delivery is heartbreaking and bare; he’s singing at the top end of his emotion throughout. “Shiver and Shake” sees Ryan mumbling around a strummed electric, another in an example of producer Don Was and Ryan building these songs simply with instruments slipping in just the right amount of atmosphere. “Breakdown,” a song built around Ryan’s acoustic picking, is very stark, maybe a bit too much actually, with the aforementioned honesty of Adams’ voice here. You can hear a Tom Petty influence too. I loved the studied lay-of-the-land of this tune, the instruments perfectly placed in the mix and the song just flowing through that plaintive wail. It’s one of the best tracks here. Prisoner ends with a snappy “We Disappear.” Adams sings at the top of his range in many points, the big splashy beat chunks us along, not to any place particularly, but it’s a strong tune, especially when the overdriven electric comes slicing in. You need be in a loving-lost frame of mind for the overall lyrics Ryan Adams hits us with on Prisoner, but the production and playing  are top rate and he once again shows what a great songwriter and honest singer he is.

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Ryan Adams: Prisoner