I don’t know a whole lot about Ryan Adams. In fact, the thing about him that has always stood out to me most is that he’s married to fellow singer Mandy Moore, who is probably better known for her acting these days than her brief moment in the sun as a pop singer during the late ’90s/early ’00s teen pop takeover. They announced their separation in early 2015, which provides a likely explanation for how a song like “Am I Safe” winds up on Ryan Adams. It’s a terrific song, but its refrain of “Am I safe if I don’t wanna be with you?” stood out to me even before coming across the news that Adams and Moore were separating. Songs can be about anything, of course, so it was easy to chalk up the subject of “Am I Safe” to an ex-girlfriend or something before, but given how confessional the nature of being a singer-songwriter is, it wouldn’t be surprising if “Am I Safe” is really about his relationship with Moore.
There are several other highlights on the record, such as the opening rocker “Gimme Something Good” and the third track, “Trouble.” In general, the rockers tend to stand out more, but that’s probably the point. Adams taps into a lot of the same heartland rock spirit that Bruce Springsteen does, which particularly manifests itself on songs like “Feels Like Fire” and “I Just Might” later on in the album. The latter track, in fact, sounds so much like it could be a Springsteen song that I checked the songwriting credits to make sure it wasn’t a cover. Some Springsteen-esque production touches creep in now and then, as well, such as the synth that backs “Tired of Giving Up.” Needless to say, if you love Born in the U.S.A., you’ll like Ryan Adams, as well.
It’s a mature, solid effort from one of the leading (and most prolific) singer-songwriters working in today’s music industry. All of the songs benefit from a solid construction, and the production is good, too. Recommended.