When the Xbox 360 hit stores last month and the system sold out within hours, a Berkeley business professor commented on the genius of Microsoft's marketing. "Shortages create a whole mystique of desirability," the prof said. Ryan Adams, take note. With the release of 29, Adams's third album this year (after the well-received duo of Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights), it's hard not to wonder about supply and demand. The album's not terrible (not great, either), but damn, man, we just weren't ready. Make us want you! Tease us a little! This stripped-down collection of nine songs Adams has said represent each year of his twenties (shouldn't there be ten tracks?) would have seemed better had we had some breathing room after 2005's two offerings; then again, this is his only '05 disc without solid backing band the Cardinals, which factors into things too. The title track gets things off to a rough-and-ready start, and "Carolina Rain" is a classic alt-country story-song, but most of the tracks are just too easy to skip over. The closing "Voices" tries to leave its mark, and it does manage to feel haunting, but only because it's about a ghost, not because it lingers long after the tale has been told and the disc's stopped spinning. For that, we need to care about what Adams is saying. And, really, all we need is some space.
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