Heartbreaker opens with an argument about a Morrissey song before the band kicks into the sloppy and rollicking "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)," and certainly the gloomster's self-referential sadness hangs over Ryan Adams's songs. But Adams, the notoriously raucous frontman for the defunct Whiskeytown, is a country boy at heart if not in attitude, so there is a lingering pastoral beauty that imbues the album with a happy sweetness as well. That, along with Ryan's expressive, gravelly voice (equal parts Paul Westerberg and Merle Haggard), gives Heartbreaker enduring power. --Tod Nelson
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Listen to Whiskeytown, the band Adams fronts, and you will hear a smoother version of the Replacements mixed with Country music. On the solo release you hear more of the Country, and as the Amazon blurb above makes clear, this is Gram Parsons Country. But more amazingly, this is not all you get, as is also made clear above--Adams seems to be able to do anything he wants with his voice and his music. If he reminds you of Parsons, you wish Parsons would have been this good (listen to his rendition of "A Song for You" on the Parsons Tribute "Return of the Grievous Angel"). If he reminds you of the Replacements, it's the Replacements of "Tim" and "All Shook Down"--a little more skilled at mixing the story with the music. And his voice is in constant flux--not only does the music mix these genres and bands, but his voice, its intonation and rhythms, does too. (Honestly, at first I wondered if these were covers of songs, they sounded so familiar.)
Thus the title of this review--Adams is that rarest of Artists who userps his precursors to make this music entirely his own. Now the Replacements will sound to you like Ryan Adams, and so will Parsons, and so on.
Stop reading this and go buy it, you'll be amazed.