Since the appearance of his debut album back in the year 2000, Ryan Adams has been an admirably prolific, if at times frustrating, solo artist. For every great song he’s recorded, there have been three annoyingly average ones too and recent efforts such as the misguided Rock ‘n’ Roll have seen Adams’ star diminish somewhat in the last couple of years.
29 is unbelievably the third Ryan Adams album to have been released in the last eight months and this LP sees a more pensive songwriter trying to make sense of the transition between his 20s and 30s.
The album’s nine songs each represent a year in the past decade of Adams’ life and while the opening title track suggests a raw bluesy energy, most of 29 sees Adams focus on what he arguably does best: melancholic introspection and deeply unhappy love songs. ‘Starlite Diner’ and ‘Nightbirds’, for example, are heartbreaking piano-led laments that allow his voice to shine whilst ‘Blue Sky Blues’ features lovely muted strings and a beautiful arrangement.
29 is, admittedly, a grower – it does require repeated listening, but nevertheless it is undoubtedly Adams’ most consistently excellent work for a long time.
Reviewed by Dante Smith