With three official releases, 2005 proved to be a banner year for Ryan Adams. A popular dismissal of his prolific output is that he’s in need of an editor — someone to chisel his work into a cohesive album. Adams has said himself in past interviews that perhaps (and I para-phrase) he “is more of a ‘sketch artist, and not a painter of murals.” As any Guided By Voices fan can attest to, some artists spit out a lot, and their rabid following is more than happy to sift through it in search of a brilliant nugget. As long as he’s recording it, I am happy to sift. Tracks below are off the three official releases of 2005.

Cold Roses was the return to form many Whiskeytown fans had long hoped for. A return to what I personally see as Adams bread and butter: rural-inflected, country-tinged rock and folk music. A tireless songwriter with musical interests as varied and diverse as early hardcore Black Flag to The Grateful Dead, Adams mines this love of the latter’s legacy of Americana storytelling while bending notes on his guitar not unlike Garcia circa Europe ’72. Cold Roses benefits from Ryan working in the confines of his first real band since Whiskeytown’s demise. A collaborative effort, The Cardinals steer Adams away from some of his more self-indulgent tendencies both in the studio and on stage.

MP3: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cold Roses

Prior to the release of Jacksonville City Nights, Adams threatened to the media that round two was going to be pure honky-tonk. The soundtrack to a Southern roadhouse bar fight. He comes close, delivering his most Country album since the early Whiseytown days (even re-recording the un-released Whiskeytown song, My heart Is Broken). JCN leaves the “Alt” out of the “Country” and is more akin to Hank Williams than John Doe.

MP3: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – A Kiss Before I Go (alternate take)

“I feel like a body stuffed into a trunk, from a million years of lying and getting drunk”

So sings Adams on the track “Nightbirds” off 29, the 3rd and final installment of his 2005 creative purge. Now 31, Adams works to free himself of the cages he constructed for himself during his 20’s. Reflective and pensive, 29’s moody vein finds Adams collaborating (sans Cardinals) with longtime producer Ethan Johns. A number of the tracks throughout the album are story-songs, most explicitly exemplified by the Country-folk of “Carolina Rain.”

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