It’s been a reasonably quiet year for Ryan Adams. The man who thinks nothing of releasing three albums per year only has the Easy Tiger album to his name so far in 2007. Of course, being one of the most prolific artists around today, Everybody Knows isn’t your common or garden single release. It’s not even a three-track EP – instead, we have eight tracks, consisting of the title track, three re-recordings of old songs, three new songs and an Alice In Chains cover version. Yes, Alice In Chains.
So, it’s a mini-album in all but name. The title track will be familiar to everyone who has Easy Tiger – a languid, lovely heartbroken ache of a song with Adams adding just the right amount of pathos to lines like “two of us together, and only one of us in love”. The new songs, Follow The Lights, My Love For You Is Real and Blue Hotel all follow the Easy Tiger formula – sorrowful alt-country which, while not being quite as rawly powerful as Heartbreaker, will still soothe any troubled soul.
Blue Hotel in particular sounds superb – originally written for Willie Nelson, Adams’ vocals sound passionate without being overwrought while a pedal steel guitar purrs quietly in the background. The Alice In Chains cover, Down In The Hole, sounds eerily more like an Adams song than a grunge staple. Then again, given Adams’ chequered history with drugs, it should come as no surprise that he can identify with the late Layne Staley’s dark lyrics about his struggles with heroin addiction.
Perhaps the highlight of the EP is, strangely, the re-recording of This Is It. The original version was a deliberate joke on Adams’ record company who rejected the tapes of his Love Is Hell album and told him to write something more commercial. The resulting album, Rock N Roll is now generally thought to be the worst of Adams’ career.
Yet the version on here strips away the bluster and Adams’ vocals are suitably lilting – it’s so successful that it makes you wish he’d rope the Cardinals in for a track-by-track reworking of Rock N Roll. Which, knowing Adams, may well happen.
There’s also stripped down versions of Cold Roses’ If I Am A Stranger, and Jacksonville City Nights’ Dear John. If the latter is missing the warmth of Norah Jones‘ vocal contribution, then that’s made up for by the former – an acoustic reworking of one of Adams’ most lyrically affecting songs about the insecurity that comes with true love.
The biggest criticism of Ryan Adams seems to be that, because he’s so prolific, his quality control sometimes slips. This may well be true, but it’s not the case here – this is an excellent taster if you’re missing the usual hundreds of songs the man seems to release every year.