Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Ryan Adams wants you back. He knows you only liked about seven songs on Rock N Roll and Love Is Hell, and he's decided to spend all of 2005 making it up to you. May's double disc Cold Roses was a flawed but refreshing apology, and on Jacksonville City Nights, he's out to prove it was a sincere one, delivering his finest front-to-back album since Heartbreaker. Opener "A Kiss Before I Go" is two minutes of country perfection, a bar room weeper for the ages, and he nearly tops it with the very next song, "The End," which overcomes a potentially embarrassing second verse with a soaring chorus about Adams' boyhood home of Jacksonville, North Carolina. As a lyricist, Adams has always been prone to cheese, but JCS finds him mining darker and more effective material, particularly on "Silver Bullets" and "Pa," his best story song since the Whiskeytown chestnut "Houses on the Hill." And while Norah Jones is no substitute for Whiskeytown's Caitlin Cary, "Dear John" shows Adams is still at his best when he has a honey-voiced female foil. All right, Ryan, we'll take you back. But you're on very thin ice, mister.


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