Ryan Adams

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Ryan Adams

Gold (Lost Highway)

The artwork beats a drum for Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A., but the four sides inside gush like The River. Ryan Adams' sophomore, post-Whiskeytown solo effort doesn't pack the Steinbeckian rock & roll wallop of the Boss' 2-LP epic, but the earnest, young-man blues mined on Gold are nearly as disarming. Packing 70 minutes onto the first disc and 25 on the second (labeled "Side 4"), Gold sprawls but it rarely meanders, all the while signaling Adams' rite of passage from alt.country bad boy to Left Coast post-folkie. A breakup album from the moment it shuffles out of "New York, New York" on the stunning opener ("farewell to the city and the love of my life"), it's neither as lachrymose as Adams' 2000 solo debut Heartbreaker nor as uneven as Whiskeytown's posthumous sleeper Pneumonia from earlier this year. Instead, Gold rocks gently back and forth over love's delicious bittersweatness like the sunset ramblings of a beachwalk bard. The lyrics are trifles, for the most part, adolescent notebook scribblings, but the melodies are Gold. Even throwaways like "When the Stars Go Blue" are tough to resist. There's only three real rockers on the whole endeavor, "New York, New York" and disc two opener "Rosalie Come and Go," among the best songs Adams has written, but the real payoff comes on sad-eyed reveries like "La Cienega Just Smile," "Wild Flowers," the lovely "Harder Now That It's Over," and "The Bar is a Beautiful Place." As good as Gold is, platinum is what awaits Ryan.

*** .5

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