Ryan Adams shouldn't even be famous. I should never have heard of him, I should never have listened to (or loved) any of his albums. Yet the American radio is an interesting thing, and Adams' shot to Adult Contemporary stardom (if such a thing exists?) after 9/11 with his convenient "New York, New York". Everybody and their dog seemed to ignore the fact that the patriotic, America-supporting Adams image they had fabricated had just released an album featured an upside-down American flag on the cover (disrespect if I've ever seen it), but this is still a very "American" album which suited the times. From New York
to his homestate of South Carolina to Hollywood Blvd.
, his right place/right time luck helped Adams to become a Rolling Stone
doesn't quite live up to the massive Rolling Stone hype (how could anybody? You know how those magazines are), but it is still a great album in it's own right.
I purchased this album after downloading "Oh My Sweet Carolina" and "To Be Young" (which as luck would have it aren't even on this album), but as it turns out Gold is a fairly consistent transition from Adams' debut solo album Heartbreaker
. "New York, New York" made this album a bigger hit than it should have been among the Adult Contemporary crowd, and I still think the best genre to squeeze this album into is Alternative Country.
One commonly recognised detriment of this album is that Adams seems more of an imitator than an original artist in his own right (and not just on this album). Sure, influences are notable (Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and contemporaries such as Wilco), but it's part of the charm of the album. No two songs sound alike; there can be no "every song sounds the same" complaints about this album. That being said, it can be argued that the album lacks cohesiveness and flow. Looking over, it does sometimes feel like a collection of songs than a complete album, but that can be argued for nearly every record nowadays.
This isn't a classic album, I'm the first to admit. But it's listenable, certainly for people who eschew the entire country genre - this is an accessible alternative with noticeable "country" roots, which might serve as an entry point into discovering the genre, slowly. But it isn't a classic. It might define the Alternative Country genre hailed to be the "next big thing" in the late 90s and early 00s, which acts such as Whiskeytown (formerly fronted by Adams), Wilco, and Adams himself.
It should be noted that this album has a second disc with 5 songs, but they are all largely forgettable. Adams should consider the phrase less is more. He has unusually prolific songwriting habits (this album alone has 21 songs, he has released 5 records in 4 years and is expected to release another 3 this year). While this mass of material is great for fans, some of it is questionable and slightly more work and elaboration might not do the songs harm.
I personally wouldn't consider this to be Adams' best album (that honour belongs to Love is Hell
). But this is a listenable album which I would recommend to fans of the genre.
The lead single New York, New York
is an obvious choice, but it isn't even the strongest song on the album. Personal favourites are the understated When the Stars Go Blue
, country-tinged Firecracker
, and La Cienega Just Smiled