As his substantial back catalogue testifies, Ryan Adams is no stranger to the perils of heartbreak. Some of his most poignant songs, be it Come Pick Me Up off debut album Heartbreaker, Love is Hell’s Hotel Chelsea Nights or La Cienega Just Smiled from Gold, are mournful laments of lost love and regret. This is a trend that continues on Prisoner, his 16th solo album and first since a well publicised divorce from Mandy Moore. The pain of separation filters into the sparse and revelatory song writing on almost every track. While occasionally not subtle, (‘It’s so hard to be without you’…’I’ve missed you so much I shiver and I shake’), the collection of songs makes for a compelling and coherent whole.
Musically the album isn’t much of a diversion on from the stripped down and intimate AOR of 2014’s eponymous record. There are echoes of Fleetwood Mac and eighties era Springsteen evident throughout. These influences are particularly noticeable on the uptempo rocker Outbound Train and the sultry melancholia of the title track.
With effective contributions from accomplished musical collaborators including Johnny T on drums and Joe Sublett on sax, the compositions are consistently engaging and highlight a songwriter at the peak of his powers. Anthemic lead off track Do You Still Love Me and the short, sweetly sublime Haunted House are notable highlights.
While perhaps lacking the ingenuity and sonic diversity of his most accomplished recordings, Prisoner is still a solid addition to his oeuvre and underlines Adams’ status as one of rock ‘n’ roll’s finest troubadours.