Country music. The mere thought of it actually makes me want to vomit. Well that is, the kind of "country" my mother listens to, or those silly <i>cowgirls</i> that prance around this farm town I live in belting horribly ALL I KNOW, NO MATTER WHERE I GO, I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN THE BOONDOCKS. Shoot me please. It's those obnoxious country folk that have made me grow to despise the Toby Keiths and Dolly Partons of the world. There is just something about middle aged men (and women with disproportional breasts) singing songs about horses and tractors that just doesn't appeal to me.
Granted, I am aware that not all country music is horrible. With artists such as Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash...the true pioneers, it's reputation can be salvaged at least slighty. When Ryan Adams came onto the scene with his band <i>Whiskeytown</i>, I found country in an acceptable alternative form, one I could actually stand. As time progressed and he went onto his solo success, I still found his country-esque music to be quite enjoyable for the most part, though I still preferred his Singer/Songwriter approach.
Of course, Ryan Adams puts out music in the motherload, and the one I am focusing on here is the album <b>Jacksonville City Nights</b>. This was the second release of 2005 for him, and about as rooted into country music as anything I have heard from him in quite some time. I was well aware of this, and certainly a bit skeptical of what this was going to result it. I had hopes, I will say, because The Cardinals proved to be a worthy band to back him up, as displayed fairly effectively on the previous effort of 2005 from him, <b>Cold Roses</b>.
The result of <b>Jacksonville City Nights</b> is basically Ryan Adam's attempt at good old fashioned honky-tonk Nashville country. It has all the typical country sounds and instruments you could think of, and Adam's voice comes off as twangy and perfectly fits into the music. What we have here is a collection of fun sing-a-longs about getting drunk, falling in love, and being heart-broken. An essential for any of you country folk keen on music to belt aloud on those late-night drinking binges at the local bar.
The album starts with one of my personal favorites of the album, "A Kiss Before I Go", a short but sweet upbeat country track that will quickly get stuck in your head and stay there for days. It certainly has that drunken swagger, that prevails through the next two tracks as well...giving you more reason to drink your night away. Oh Ryan Adams, you have made me want to dig through my closet and grab my cowboy hat and let out a triumphant YEEE-HAW!!! However, I am going to try to stop myself from such an embarassing action.
"Dear John" and "September" give the album a bit of a break from all that hillbilly influence, providing heartfelt lyrics and a beautiful plethora of saddening sounds. "Dear John" is a rather depressing yet pretty ode to...well...some man named John I am assuming. Norah Jones (although I swore it was Emmylou Harris upon first listen) provides vocals on this track, and my does she accompany Adams perfectly. The intertwining vocals atop the slowly progressing piano, bass, and moderate use of strings is truly a well put-together peace. "September" is a more stripped down country ballad, with intertwining vocals once again being included, with softly strummed acoustic guitar. Eventually piano and strings introduce themselves as well. It's a short track, but it's a goodn'. Both of these tracks help break up some of the filler that makes up the middle of the album. It's not horrible filler, but it's nothing to truly grasps the attention of the listener...we at least it didn't truly grab mine.
Then you have what is one of the last standout tracks, "My Heart Is Broken". A great short but sweet track that is reminiscent of Johnny Cash in many ways. It's the way country should be done, and Adam's demonstrates he is capable of pulling it off nicely. The album closes with a few more tracks that are well together and are easy on the ears but don't stand out amongst some of the better tracks on the album.
So there you have it folks, a review of a country album in it's purest of forms. There is nothing alternative about this. It's not amazing, but it's fun to listen to and it will get your feet stompin'. At last, withstandable country music in this day and age! Amazing isn't it? It hasn't quite inspired me to the point of buying myself a Ford truck and making my way to the local pub on country night, but at least I have obtained more of an appreciative knowledge of how the genre once was, and how it still should be. So everyone, put on that hat, down yourself a shot of whiskey and sing until the break of dawn.