ryan adams:
 gold (lost highway records)

Fair or not, my first inclination on listening to a new artist is to figure out who they remind me of - usually there's someone. In this case singer/songwriter Ryan Adams haunted me for a few days until I figured out with him, it was Freedy Johnston; Freedy Johnston big time on certain tracks of his second solo album, Gold. But there's more to it...

The former Whiskeytown front man strikes a hugely-accessible chord on his catchy upbeat rock single, "New York, New York," but then proceeds to follow it up with 15 (!) tracks of widely varied pace, from "SYLVIA PLATH" (slow ballad with only piano and strings accompaniment) to "Gonna Make You Love Me," two fast minutes of stadium rock a la Aerosmith. Then "Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues," about a teenage street prostitute saving for medical school, sounds like a Vonda Shepherd song on Ally McBeal, with vocal backing by C.C. White - "It ain't no easy life but it's silver and gold, silver, silver, silver and gold."

"When the Stars Go Blue," a personal favorite, seems to allude to a place and time of day but inspires one to think on deeper subjects.

Obligatory guests of note include Gillian Welch, co-writer on "Enemy Fire," and Counting Crows lead man, Adam Duritz, as a choir member on "Touch, Feel, and Lose."

If you want pop, save some money and download "New York, New York." If you want originality, country, rock, blues, depression, and joyfulness, pick up Gold.

Jonathan Byler

read more in music...