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4.2 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Audio CD, December 20, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

29 is the third and final album from Ryan Adams this year. as opposed to the two previous releases of 2005, that Ryan recorded with his band The Cardinals, 29 is a solo album of all new and original material. Lost Highway. 2005.

On his third release of a most prolific year, Ryan Adams takes a break from his band, the Cardinals, to fashion an introspective song cycle with stripped-down arrangements focused on acoustic guitar or solo piano. After the propulsive, self-mythologizing title track opens the album in brazen fashion, forging an unlikely bond of comparison between John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band and the early '70s Grateful Dead, much of the rest of 29 finds Adams at his dreamiest (the reveries of "Strawberry Wine" and "Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part") and most rapturously romantic (the aching falsetto on the lovesick "Starlite Diner"). He continues to take chances and not all of them pay off, with the underwatery echo of "Night Birds" and the over-the-top dramatics of "The Sadness" showing the downside of self-indulgence, though "Carolina Rain" suggests he can return to the alt-country prime of Whiskeytown whenever the mood strikes. With the intimacy of the closing "Voices," Adams sounds less like he is singing a song than sharing a secret. Refusing to rein himself in or pin himself down, he sings on the title track, "You can't hang on to something that won't stop moving." --Don McLeese

Recommended Ryan Adams Discography



Love Is Hell

Whiskeytown, Pneumonia

Whiskeytown, Stranger's Almanac

Whiskeytown, Faithless Street

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (December 20, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Lost Highway
  • ASIN: B000BY9E2A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,724 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
29, the third(!) Ryan Adams album of 2005, is dark, moody, elegiac, and brooding. And quite good. It is the kind of record who's charms are less obvious, and which unfolds itself to you over repeated listenings, when you least expect it.

Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights were pretty clearly country records, both cut with his new (and, it turns out, evolving) band the Cardinals. Here we get an Adams solo record, absent the band vibe and the country touches that flavor the two previous releases, and more of a serious singer-songwriter turn. Many of the songs are intricate and finely drawn stories and character studies, heavy on the narrative. Indeed the songs are all like little movies, as opposed to hook-laden slices of pop. This record is like midnight at the Indie Cinema multiplex.

The opening track, "29," is a rewrite of the Grateful Dead's "Truckin'"-so much so that I thought it was a cover version until the vocals started. But he keeps it darker and more Westerberg than Weir, with acoustic guitars, electrics, and harmonica front and center in the mix; for all the obvious similarities to the Dead tune, it is more garage rock than hippie anthem.

"Strawberry Wine" is a slow plaintive story song in waltz time, sparse instrumentation, mainly Ryan's voice and acoustic guitars. "Night Birds" is a piano ballad, another minor key song, with a nice dramatic sonic effect that blends thunder and electric guitar on the refrain, "In the ocean..." By now it is clear that this is a "down" record, closer to Love is Hell than Gold, although it is always perilous to try and define a new Ryan Adams record in terms of an old one.
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Format: Audio CD
One of the most amazing feats in the last several years of music has to be the depth and quality of work that Ryan Adams has released in 2005. With this, the final of three releases in less than a year, he has provided a deeper look into his life than any of his previous releases. The concept behind the album is almost as interested as Sufjan Stevens' plan to release an album for each state in the US - one song for each year in Ryan's 20's. The result is his most personal, and compelling album yet.

The album starts with "29" - a rocking retrospective of his 20's, and the mistakes and regrets he has made. The comparisons to Grateful Dead's "Truckin" are obvious - but pay attention to the introspective lyrics, and not the heavy-handed borrowing from his idols. The album continues to tell interesting, albeit heartbreaking, stories of both Ryan's life and the other characters that he introduces - as he has on previous releases. From a storytelling perspective, the album may not get any better than "Strawberry Wine" and "Carolina Rain". They really are standouts not just on this album - but in Ryan's incredible career. "Strawberry Wine" is all about not wasting your years, and making sure that you "get your seeds in the ground" before it is too late to have a family - or as Ryan puts it, "flowers". "Carolina Rain" weaves a fascinating tale of a woman who leaves a wake of death and destruction behind her with each verse.

For fans of Ryan's piano ballads, there are some great one's on this album - "Night Birds", "Blue Sky Blues", and "Starlight Diner". Each song has it's own charms.
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Format: Audio CD
I'm relatively shocked at the negative reviews of this album. Lyrically this is one of Ryan Adam's best. Adams is storytelling throughout the album, you're getting not simply snapshots but life stories all with the poetic subtlety and attention to wording that is nearly nonexistant in all popular music.

Ryan Adams doesn't go full out country, doesn't go full out folk, doesn't go full out pop. This album really spans the spectrum of Adam's career showing the flexibility of this astonishing artist. One of the prior reviews of this album says to buy it last, I'd like to completely contradict that message. Buy this album first, find the Ryan Adams that reaches your pallette best and then go from there.

Highlights: "Blue Sky Blues", "Starlite Diner", "The Sadness*"

*One of my favorite songs of all time.
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Format: Audio CD
Aside from the opening track 29 is a much more introspective and quiet album compared to recent releases Jacksonville City Nights and to a lesser extent Cold Roses, which actually contains a few tracks that would have nestled snuggly. Overall in fact, the album is probably a closer relation to Whiskeytown's Pneumonia than anything Adams has done as a solo artist.

This is especially evident in tracks such as Strawberry Wine, a drunken lament softly crooned and backed predominately by ukulele, Carolina Rain...a brilliantly written story song with it's tale of unrequited love, loss and murder and the lovelorn Starlight diner in which the protagonist sings of having been stood up by his lover until he notices that she has been there all along across the room.

29 itself threatens to open up on occasion but Adam's keeps it on a tight leash and continues to reign it in just as it starts to pick up in intensity. It starts up softly with a marching band drumming then a rockabilly guitar swoops in and out throughout raising the stakes at the end of verses to give the impression the song is about to take off to another level but then the breaks come on and it's back to an almost whispered story again. The tale itself seems semi-autobiographical and paints a less than complimentary version of Adam's view of his upbringing and life and times to this point..."nobody loved me and nobody even tried"

The remaining songs are more acoustic in nature though The Sadness has a taste of Mexican Mariachi and is jarring enough to appear out of place. This may well have been the case for 29 as well had it appeared in the middle of the album rather than as the opening track, perhaps The Sadness may have worked better as the closing track just for consistency sakes.
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