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Artist: Ryan Adams 
Label: Cooking Vinyl (UK)/Bloodshot (US)
Length: 15 tracks

To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high)
Ryan Adams has a name too close to a bland rocker to go solo but he has. This album is beginning to garner the kind of reviews that might just see him overcoming that particular handicap. Adams is the singer and songwriter of alternative country rock outfit Whiskeytown, a band whose songs are as lush as the grass on a wet spring Irish day. Their Stranger's Almanac is simply the artistic peak of the genre.

Adams is a young man for such utterly brilliant abilities, but seems to be smitten with that old country disease of too much drink and too many drugs. Whether that is the reason for this solo album or that his songwriting imagination is too fertile for just one release outlet remains to be seen in whether Whiskeytown will survive for a new album next spring. In the meantime, this is a powerfully sad and beautiful piece of work. There are hints of Bob Dylan in harmonica, vocal, writing and spirit, but it's varied to include Steve Earle, Peter Case, and Hank Williams on the influence credits.

Bottom line is that it is a superb album and just what a solo album should be. This isn't not just session players brought in to do what the band would have normally done. This is a stripped back canvas. Having said that, there are the rockers of "To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high)," "Shake Down On 9th Street," and the best of the lot "Come Pick Me Up."

Elsewhere, Emmylou does that enchanting wondrous thing that has become so familiar on "Oh My Sweet Carolina" and David Rawlings and Gillian Welch add superb picking and singing throughout.

Adam's voice was made in heaven to sing of the sadness of heartbreak and the edges of emotional hell. This album is destined to follow Almanac to the Best of the Year

Steve Stockman 10/22/2000


Steve Stockman is a Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He used to book the bands for Greenbelt, edits Juice magazine, has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster and a web page - Rhythms of Redemption at He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.
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