Album review: Ryan Adams keeps making Ryan Adams music on ‘Prisoner’


Three and a half stars

Prisoner Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams loves to tout his influences, releasing albums that emulate everything from heavy metal to Taylor Swift, but whatever he does, he generally still ends up sounding like Ryan Adams. The prolific singer-songwriter has cited ’80s album rock as the main inspiration for Prisoner, and it’s easy to hear echoes of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty in the songs (Adams even brought in classic-rock superproducer Don Was for guidance). Those are solid touchstones for Adams, who’s best as a meat-and-potatoes roots rocker, and Prisoner is his most accessible and radio-friendly album of originals since 2007’s Easy Tiger.

The album’s other main inspiration is Adams’ divorce from singer/actress Mandy Moore, so aside from opening rocker “Do You Still Love Me,” the songs are melancholy and downbeat, with jangly, reverb-heavy guitars channeling glum New Wave rockers. The hooks are catchy and the production is tight, though, and Adams makes a little time to go back to country for the excellent, Gram Parsons-esque “To Be Without You.” Through all the various styles, he’s still making Ryan Adams music, which remains his greatest strength.

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