RYAN ADAMS - PRISONER
While I will have an almost deranged love of Ryan Adams until the day I die, in a way that makes me dread each one of his releases more than the last. My expectations are so high of (surely) one of America's greatest ever songwriters, that it almost makes disappointment in his work inevitable. I hold my breath with every newly published song, EP, or album that comes my way.
Due to Adams' proficiency as a songwriter, I hold my breath a lot.
Prisoner is Adams' 16th studio album. Unsurprisingly - considering it was written in the wake of his unpleasant divorce to Mandy Moore - it is an album of heartbreak, lost love and vulnerability. Thankfully, though, it is also an album of greatness.
While Adams fans will feel a sense of familiarity from the vocals, harmonica playing and guitar picking, a uniqueness is brought to the album through the 80s drenched audio that accompanies most of the record. The influence of Bruce Springsteen goes hand in hand with this sound, too, where he practically bleeds out of tracks such as 'Doomsday' 'Haunted House' and 'Outbound Train'.
Like only Adams' can do, every single emotion is laid bare in brutally honest and open lyrics throughout the record, and they're not always morose. While, yes, it is a break up album, Adams is not only singing of heart ache. When Adams finds joy, however smaller slither, we hear it too, and it is all the more poignant. When Adams hits the very bottom of his despair, however, we hear that also. It’s this alternation between light and dark that makes Prisoner stand out. By interjecting a tiny amount of hope into Prisoner and an element of moving on, Adams' makes the listener feel that sting so much harder when it does come.
At one point Prisoner was scheduled to come out in 2016, and for almost three years now Adams has spoken about the music in the pipeline, which he’d described as some of the most effortlessly inspired work he’s ever done. Listening to Prisoner, it's clear to see he wasn’t exaggerating. There’s a thematic consistency to the lyrics which paint a picture of Adams as a man unsure of change as he settles into mid-age. Predominantly though, Adams sounds like he is savouring this moment, and how full of life his music is. He feels this, no matter what he had to go through to make it so. Like only Ryan Adams can do, he has turned misery into art, and it is a joy to behold.