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Ryan Adams: 29 ****
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RYAN ADAMS: 29 ****
(Courtesy of SF Weekly

Ryan Adams fans may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Sure, the former Whiskeytown frontman has bragged about his prolific songwriting binges and the hours of unreleased tracks lining his studio shelves. Still, it’s surprising he chose to release three albums in 2005 – first Cold Roses, a double-disc dose of melancholic country, then the more upbeat Jacksonville City Nights. Now comes 29, a stripped-down solo effort that is a characteristically bleak account of life in his 20s, when Adams, now 31, was “a motherless son of a bitch, loaded on ephedrine, looking for downers and coke.” If the arrangements seem subdued, with Adams’ impassioned wail often reduced to a faint warble, it’s no accident. Exploring a familiar but affecting theme of quiet desperation, Adams captures the directionless essence of postgraduate malaise and channels it into a series of fiercely moving ballads, from the Dylanesque “Carolina Rain” to the wistful “Night Birds.”

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