THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Working his way through heartache.
Let’s get this out of the way: Ryan Adams’ new album, “Prisoner” (Pax Am/Blue Note), is not the second coming of “Heartbreaker” and it’s not a tell-all about his divorce from Mandy Moore, which was finalized last year.
After all, Adams is 42 now, not the 26-year-old behind “Heartbreaker.” And “Prisoner” does sound like the aftermath of some sort of sadness, but the causes are less clear, even though Adams’ inspirations are often more straightforward.
The single “Do You Still Love Me?” sounds like late-’70s album rock filtered through Oasis. The rugged and charming “Outbound Train” starts like a “Nebraska”-era Springsteen track before veering into Paul Westerberg cool for the verses, while “Haunted House” could fit on a more recent Springsteen album.
Of course, there are also songs that undeniably sound like Adams, especially the plaintive, harmonica-driven rock of “Doomsday,” the wistful “We Disappear” and “Shiver and Shake,” which harks back to the pop-folk sound he honed to cover Taylor Swift’s “1989” album last year.
“Prisoner” does make Adams sound held back at times, but by the end he also sounds set free.