Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Album Review: Whiskeytown – Pneumonia

This turned out to be Whiskeytown’s final album. Its release was delayed till 2001 due to record company politics, by which time singer Ryan Adams had already embarked on a solo career.
The album itself has been described by people who have too much time on their hands as the “alt-country ‘Rumours’”, possibly due to the fact that there were a couple of relationships going on in this band. It’s not particularly country sounding, particularly in comparison to their early stuff, but there are enough steel guitar twangs and good ol’ boy drawls going on here to place it in the ballpark.

All flippancy aside, it’s both an accessible and strong collection of songs. They try their hand at a variety of styles, from soul ballads (Ballad of Carol Lynn, Easy Hearts), to REM-style folk-rock (Don’t Wanna Know Why, Don’t Be Sad, Bar Lights) to rockers (Crazy About You). Jacksonville Skyline is one of the more country sounding tracks, all pedal steel and yearning about his hometown, and is one of many fine songs on this album. The playing on this album is subtle, no instrument allowed to dominate, and it works beautifully on understated ballad Reason To Lie.
Sit and Listen To The Rain is a sprightly, widescreen moody rocker about the joys of… you’ve guessed it, sitting around. There are one or two missteps: Mirror, Mirror is too poppy for its own good in a Beatles kind of way, while Paper Moon is dangerously close to lounge cheese. So after these 2 tracks they redeem it all with some strange Nick Drake style number (What The Devil Wanted) and a great facsimile of a Bruce Springsteen ballad, even down to the title (My Hometown).
It’s all so effortless and listening to it now, I can’t help feeling that it blows away Ryan Adams’ more recent output. If any of these Whiskeytown tracks were on one of Ryan Adams’ recent albums it would be the strongest track on it.