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CD Reviews:  Ryan Adams: Demolition

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With last year's Gold, Ryan Adams established a new standard by which all of his (and many of his fellow singer/songwriter's) albums would be forever measured. It was brilliant, after all, a masterpiece of simple, folksy, twang rock ditties that firmly captured Adams' crown as king of alt-country rock and brandished him this generation's Bob Dylan. One short year later, Adams gathers up a few lost scraps from the editing room floor and offers Demolition, a 13-song collection that began as a four-disc (60 song) set. For a guy like Adams who makes a career out of writing songs, an album of unreleased studio sessions is always just around the corner. I get the feeling that he literally writes three or four songs for every one that ever sees the light of day from recorded release. How else could an album of demos and forgotten outtakes, like Demolition, be so damned good?

"Nuclear" is an electric romp that gets things started, earmarked by Adams' gruff, straight-out-of-bed vocals and an ultra catchy three-minute chorus. The triumphant pop pleasures of "Hallelujah" make me wonder how this one ever got left off Heartbreaker or Gold. The haunting pace of "Desire" recalls Joshua Tree-era U2, even though the youthful Ryan Adams was but 12 years old when that frat-rock classic was produced. Without question, the North Carolina native had to be grooming his future skills even as far back as the mid-1980s, since that same period is clearly evident on "Starting to Hurt," as the bass line intro spills right off a Pixies record.

The cranked up guitar rockers are not necessarily his forte, but Adams delivers "Gimme a Sign" with all the garage band vigor of The Replacements via Pleased to Meet Me. Conversely, it's the intoxicating ballads on Demolition that tend to shine the brightest. The intermittent piano that breathes chilling life through "Cry on Demand" will make even a novice want to! Still a bluesy ballad like "Tennessee Sucks" works well and further exemplifies Adams' vocal and guitar-playing range and diversity.

The best thing about Ryan Adams (aside from the fact that he sparkles during an otherwise dismal period for his genre) is that as strong as his first few albums have been, his very best work could still be ahead of him. At 27, he's already formed a noteworthy band (Whiskeytown), split it up to pursue his solo work, kicked out three great albums (with a fourth due out early next year!), and seemingly whipped his long-standing stage fright to become an accomplished live force. Make way for the next legendary singer/songwriter, I say. The Ryan Adams era is already upon us.

Red Rocker

Other Ryan Adams reviews:
Gold (2001)

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