Ryan Adams, Prisoner. Ryan Adams, known in part for making Taylor Swift cooler to pop-resistant granola girls (he recorded, in full, a beautiful version of her Grammy-winning 1989 behemoth), is back to his old tricks on Prisoner. As usual, the beloved feelings guy dives deep into his torn psyche for rockers doused in punchy guitars rhythms from his favorite decade, the ’80s, and the heartbreak brought on by his divorce to former pop star-turned-adored TV actress Mandy Moore.
The guitars on “Do You Still Love Me?” scorch like heaven on fire as they tear through the track with impassioned verve, making for one helluva start to your late-night drive playlist. Those guitars simmer on “Breakdown,” and beam on “Anything I Say to You Now.” If you asked Adams what his favorite adult toy is, he’d say the guitar.
Prisoner, then, is his playground. For that reason, Adams delivers a melodically on-point work more rousing than anything he’s recorded in years — yes, my dear Swifties, even more so than his surprising take on the pop singer’s blockbuster album. One of Adams’ originals, the forlorn “Shiver and Shake,” is a sonic extension of the lo-fi vibe heard on his 1989 reimagining; in fact, it sounds almost identical to his living-room rendition of “Shake It Off.” Too much of a good thing is just fine, though, especially since Adams gives these ditties new life, even those that fall right within his emo-rock wheelhouse where the only confrontation he’s having — nevermind that Mandy person, he seems to say — is the one involving his own shattered self.
Still, niche success has been good to Rimes, who, once again, goes her own way because she can — no fickle masses, no big label heads. The opener misses the mark — she delivers a too-slick cover of out singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile’s guttural “The Story” — but otherwise, Remnants is an accomplished set that fortunately finds Rimes answering to no one except her own artistic instincts. Highlights include grungy jazz-inflected banger “Dang Dang” and smoky torch number “Dangerous Love,” a fired-up ballad about outsider relationships soon to be heard at all your queer weddings.
More transparently gay is the buoyant pop song “Love Is Love Is Love,” the Ally for Equality honoree’s anti-hate anthem, which also serves as a call to “start a revolution.” You know, maybe we can’t fight the moonlight, but that’s only because Rimes, armed with an album’s worth of strong-willed mantras and an ode to equality, is too busy fighting more important fights.
— Chris Azzopardi
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 07, 2017.