Whiskeytown Pneumonia (Lost Highway)
Pneumonia (Lost Highway)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., June 8, 2001
Pneumonia (Lost Highway)Ryan Adams is a melancholy boy. Once hailed as Gram Parsons for the flannel generation, adult radio has revealed it's really Jackson Browne in that nudie suit. Which is good; Parsons couldn't sing in key to save his life. What Adams shares with the late, great Flying Burrito Byrd Brother, beyond an obvious facility for songwriting, is the wistful yen that Southern-born boys and girls are bred with. The Whiskeytown frontman, now a solo artist, has always been a displaced Carolinan, and until recently, few albums have been as displaced as Pneumonia. Originally conceived as a 2-CD follow-up to Whiskeytown's Strangers Almanac and Wilco's Being There, it was paved over by Universal Records' label confederation. Neither as bittersweet as 1996's Alamanac, nor as avant-alt.country as Jeff Tweedy's double album opus, Pneumonia has been edited down to a sweet, simple single disc that would have been all over the radio in the Seventies. Scott Litt (REM) did some initial mixes on Pneumonia, and you can hear his acoustic touch throughout, there being just enough pedal steel, Caitlan Cary (fiddle), and mandolin to lull listeners into Adams' lovelorn déjà-vu. Remember those high school crushes and heartaches? They're here: the somber "Reason to Lie," the quavering "Don't Be Sad," and "Jacksonville Skyline" with its Alamanac echoes ("Inn Town"). As with most Adams' efforts, there are just as many dead rose bushes as flowering magnolias: the throwaway "Crazy About You," bad "Under Your Breath," and painfully retro, "What the Devil Wanted," to begin with. Then, just as you're getting ready to pull the plug on Adams' jukebox, out dances a Beatles-ish "Mirror Mirror" or a lazy Parsons-like "Easy Heart" and you fall in love all over again.