Ryan Adams is an interesting artist to follow. His albums are often stupendously good, his concerts sometimes erratic and his relationship with record companies and fans variable. Recording music seems the easy part for him, while the rest is a distraction. He is a mercurial and sometimes controversial figure, and in the past, his energetic talent threatened to run away from him, with ominous stretches of silence. After some tireless, vigorous promotion, it’s been almost impossible to miss that Adams has recently released a self-titled rock album (after putting aside a more subdued project with Glyn Johns). At the same time, he’s releasing a series of 7” EPs, also available as digital downloads. So far we’ve seen Gimme Something Good from the album (backed with non-album track “Aching For More”), the punk’ish EP 1984, this release Jacksonville, and scheduled for imminent release are Vampires, No Shadow and Do You Laugh When.
There is an inordinate scrabble to get a hold of vinyl editions of these releases, but fans must still be pleased; numerous projects have previously been shelved because of record company demands or a change of focus on his part; there was a rumoured box set, 20:20, with a scheduled release in 2007 with five unreleased albums, The Suicide Handbook, 48 Hours, Pinkhearts, Darkbreaker and Black Hole, but this would have represented only a small part of the stuff squirreled away. Historically the stockpile of material in the vaults has to a certain extent fueled the interest of fans; if something exists but you can’t get it, officially anyway, the fervent types struggle to keep a lid on their desires. The great demand for this series of releases on Adam’s PAX-AM label proves to any sceptical record executives that it’s impossible to saturate the market; there is a surfeit of love, but multiple lovers will not detract from the time spent individually, or something like that.
Jacksonville, North Carolina, is Adams’s hometown, and he has referenced it on multiple occasions in songs, both in his band, Whiskeytown, as well as a solo artist. His second album with the Cardinals is titled Jacksonville City Nights, and the Cardinals were named after the mascot of Jacksonville High School, which Adams attended. So as you would guess, the town has a special significance to Adams. The title track here is a twangy, lowdown recollection, as Adams drives through the town which has “gone missing” from his life. Buildings are being torn down and his old house is empty. The chorus is sweetly melancholic. The “B” side continues in a country-ish style with “I Keep Running”, which has a downbeat-yet-catchy chorus backed with jangly guitar. Finally, “Walkedypants” is a novelty piece with a strained, jazzy Tom Waits vocal about a character struggling to find the Internet, “because they haven’t built it yet”. This is the sound of Adams fooling around in the studio, with references to Christian Slater and Def Leppard T-shirts. Adams sometimes improvises this kind of thing on stage and if all three tracks were like this, you’d feel ripped off, but because this comes last, it’s just some harmless fun for the listener, complete with bleeped-over profanity. The other two songs are high-grade and well-recorded, and are unavailable elsewhere. It suggests Adams is still interested in being a man of the people by pleasing his fans, surely a good sign for the future.
US Release Date: 16 SEP 2014
FIRST PUBLISHED POPMATTERS 13 OCT 2014