Over the course of the past year or so, Ryan Adams released three albums. Three! Most folks fight like hell to get even one album out of the chute, and Adams put out three. Is it any surprise, then, that they all got mixed reviews? The first two (Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights) were received a little more warmly, yet some critics still griped that the albums were “too long” and “too clichd” and that Adams had become a parody of himself: the alt.-country bad boy, the “Gram Parsons successor.” By the time 29 reached record stores in January, Adams was down to two stars. In interviews leading up to the album, he suggested that it would be “really fucked up, really cerebral” and that its nine songs would each be nine minutes long. Thankfully, this is not actually the case—only one song is eight minutes long; the others are about five minutes each—but still. The man needs an editor. Or some reassurance. He sounds like he's having an identity crisis—is he rock, country or pop? And who is his audience? Chick-flick junkies and couch potatoes? After all, Adams' songs make cameos in Elizabethtown, Must Love Dogs, The Break-Up and a slew of television shows like The West Wing and Scrubs. According to him, 29 was an attempt to “write myself out of my 20s,” but will his 30s hold anything more substantial? It's not likely: Adams is set to release three more albums in 2006, though his record company is understandably hesitant. Still, there's something compelling about Ryan Adams' music—even underneath the neurosis. When Adams sings songs like “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High),” it's worth the dross to get to the gold.
Ryan Adams plays the House of Blues Anaheim, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-BLUE. Fri., 9 p.m. $30-$33. All ages. Sold out.