THIS is truly alt-country, a healthy blend of Hank Williams and Nirvana. This is also the best vocals you are going to hear from Ryan Adams. Stark lyrics and beautiful harmonies (thanks to Caitlin Cary) this is one of those albums that lingers with you long after the last note fades. And, as an added bonus, if you haven't already purchased this album the new release includes 9 additional tracks.
The album opens softly with "Midway Park." Then they break into the blistering rocker "Drank Like A River," that has the lyrical feel of a younger Kris Kristofferson. Next comes the wrought "Too Drunk To Dream," a perfect example of Adam's Williams-esque self destructive side. Next comes the first of the added tracks, the haunting "Tennessee Square," a ballad of small town alienation. Next comes the heavy slice of honky tonk, the backhanded "What May Seem Like Love." Then the album edges into the stark pain of "Faithless Street" which finds Adams seeking plaintively, "If angels are messengers from God/please send one down to me/if angels are messengers of God/Got a letter He should read." "Mining Town" continues this theme of stripped down haunted feelings., pairing haunting steel guitar and spine tingling harmonies. They kick back into honky tonk form for the dark "If He Can't Have You." Black Arrow Bleeding Heart" sound like a contemporary mountain ballad. Caitlin Cary takes her only turn at lead vocals on the blackly humorous "Matrimony," where she belts out "I don't believe I care to marry/though I cannot say exactly why/It somehow seems to me that matrimony is misery/It's simply a faster way to die." Ryan Adams sounds like a younger Hank Williams as he tears into "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight" and the following "Desperate Ain't Lonely." Next comes the text book alt-country song, "Hard Luck Story" where Adams channels a mouthful of wit as he tells us "Well I got a bucket full of tears and a hard luck story and there's a bad moon rising behind/And I know I told you're daddy that I loves you but I changed my mind." They go into full throttle twangy rock for "Top Dollar." "Lo-Fi-Tennessee Mountain Angel" is quite possibly the most gorgeous song ever recorded. "Revenge" a little too grunge rock, but will leave you bopping in your seat. They make up for it with the quiet beauty of "Empty Baseball Park." "Here's To The Rest of the World" has an almost carnival undertone as Adams sings "I guess you deserve something you work so hard/at trying to be just like everyone else/except people like me." This sets you up for another fine example of Adams' wit in "16 Days," "I got 16 days/most of them are nights." "Yesterday's News" is the first song to really dip into Adams love of Morrissey. The album closes with the beautiful plucked bass and backyard picking feel of "Factory Girl."
This album is a beautiful album from a band who, while well versed in the grunge rock of their era had a healthy knowledge, love and respect for the classics of country. Listening to this album one realizes that there is very little that belongs on an all country station. However, there is a definitely twang to the melodies, a mandolin or fiddle and a firm setting of stories among rural working class that makes them all wrong for rock stations as well. This is, pretty much, the definition of alt-country.