Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
Jacksonville City Nights
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2005, Volume 12, #11
Written by T.J. Simon
On the second of his three albums scheduled for 2005 release, the prolific Ryan Adams and his exceptional backing band The Cardinals deliver 14 traditional country songs in the spirit of Gram Parsons and Neil Young sans Crazy Horse. Rather than imbue his new material with extended guitar solos, Adams instead supports his acoustic strumming with gentle touches of piano, violin, and pedal steel. As such, Jacksonville City Nights serves as a left turn for Adams, whose previous release (Cold Roses) was a Grateful Dead-inspired, double album that bristled with energy and was full of new ideas. In contrast, Jacksonville City Nights is straightforward, humble, and decidedly unflashy.
Throughout Jacksonville City Nights, Catherine Popper, bassist for The Cardinals, provides alluring background vocals that complement Adamsí voice quite nicely, particularly on the closing number Donít Fail Me Now. Still, the strongest tracks are the full-tilt, George Jones/Hank Williams-inspired My Heart Is Broken and the up-tempo single The Hardest Part. As for the rest of the effort, itís pleasant enough, but itís also nondescript, acoustic-oriented fare. The biggest disappointment comes on Dear John, a duet with Norah Jones that is utterly spoiled by vocal disharmony as well as the fact that the song itself is a poor representation of Adamsí compositional skills.
In fact, thereís nothing on Jacksonville City Nights that conveys Adamsí musical brilliance. Nevertheless, itís still impressive that he can even make something that can share space with the blazing guitars of Rock & Roll and the quiet folk of Love Is Hell. While Adams' latest effort will not be remembered as his strongest outing, neither is it his weakest. Instead, itís an agreeable song cycle that fits quite nicely into his strikingly diverse musical catalog. Ĺ
Jacksonville City Nights is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box