With a touch of Robyn Hitchcock in his vocal timbre, a smidgen of Steve Earle in his narratives and instrumental writing, and a heap of Gram Parsons in the fullness of his overall sound and structure, Ryan Adams steps well above Whiskeytown with Heartbreaker, his solo debut.
By turns raucous, wistful, raspy, and simply sweet, Adams makes the most of a top-shelf acoustic band, including Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and even a guest spot from Emmylou Harris on the tenderly yearning Oh My Sweet Caroline. There's little dependence on the usual alt-country twang and a far more rounded sense of textures here (the multiple vocal tracks on Amy, for example, sound Beatles-esque), with glockenspiel, organ, and more signaling a sonic field of extensive depth. His spare guitar and stretched-thin vocal delivery alternate smartly with a bigger-shouldered guitar and throaty voice, never leaving behind a band conception straight out of Parsons's oeuvre. Adams signals occupancy of the post-alt-country vanguard—if there is such a thing.
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