Reviews:: Ryan Adams Follow the Lights

I wonder if too much of a good thing is bad? I’m sure it is, but more importantly, is too much of an okay thing ever good? Ryan Adams is prolific; that’s been obvious over the last few years. He records more music and takes more heat than almost any popular artist that still holds credibility. You’d think he almost welcomes the constant criticism, because he seems to be dead set on his quantity over quality career path.

Now, unlike a lot of long time Ryan Adams fans, I actually warmed nicely to Easy Tiger. In a year where I though I’d only hear one Adams record, it was a nice combination of all things previous. It was like a greatest hits, but featured all new material. Then, in the ole mailbox was a new EP - Follow the Lights.

I kind of stared at the CD and the only question that popped in my head was, “why?” In theory, the idea works. Taking some rock n’ roll (both the era and the genre)and giving it the Cardinals treatment should be very appealing. The Cardinals add the delicate touches to his music and his more subtle releases have always been my favorites. And throwing in the chance to hear three new songs couldn’t hurt. Could it?

Well, in a world where we are over exposed to our entertainers, this is an EP we probably could have done without. Adams is sort of becoming the higher quality musical equivalent of seeing Paris Hilton getting out of a car with no under-oos or drama with K-Fed/Britt. For some reason we all tune in just to be able to dismiss the results out of hand. It’s not his fault (or necessarily theirs) that we shower attention on his every song, he’s just the recipient of too much attention.

It’s a shame too, because the opening track - Follow the Lights - is a fantastic opener. The gentle percussion, harmonies and subtle pedal steel let Adams tell a simple, beautiful story. The three-minute song is the standout track, and slowly the EP drifts into a bit of the sames-ies. If Adams hadn’t given us so much over the last few years, a track like My Love For You is Real would probably jump out of the speakers, but instead it floats by almost unnoticed.

That’s exactly the problem. When Adams released material earlier on in his career, it was met with love or hate. Very few people simply shrugged and moved on. With each multi-release year, the good songs have become average, and the material that fails to deliver constantly makes you wonder why Adams feels the need to record quite so much. Blue Hotel and his version of Alice in Chain’s Down in a Hole fall short.

Adams has always gravitated to cover songs that open him up for criticism (for the record, I loved his take on Wonderwall), but again I wonder why he seems to need to make his life difficult. The Cardinals definitely spice up Rock N Roll’s This Is It, adding a nice roots feel to the equation and live versions of If I Am a Stranger and Dear John follow suit, but in a era where people have access to countless Adam’s bootlegs, do people want to shell out duckets for these tracks?

I guess the obvious answer is, “who knows?” Adams fans are devoted and so are his haters. Sadly, I’m migrating more and more to the middle when it comes to his work.
MP3:: Follow the Lights

UPDATE:: A reader sent this version of Dear John played live @ Koko’s in London.
MP3:: Dear John - Ryan Adams (live - 06/07/07)

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 30th, 2007 at 1:04 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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