Even the most prolific artists need a break and so it was with Ryan Adams. After a great burst of creativity that resulted in four albums' worth of material in two years -- Orion plus the double-LP III/IV in 2010, followed by Ashes & Fire in 2011 –- Adams took a three-year hiatus, dabbling in side projects and productions, breaking up his longtime backing band the Cardinals, and eventually re-emerging in 2014 with a self-titled album. The old canard says an eponymous album released well into a career suggests a rebirth, and that's somewhat true of Ryan Adams, which largely ditches the Dead obsessions, ragged country-rock, and occasional noise squall for precision-tuned audio straight out of 1981. He still finds space for the spare "My Wrecking Ball," an intimate piece of acoustica that recalls the spartan Heartbreaker, but not unlike Jenny Lewis' The Voyager, which Adams also produced, craft is the order of the day here, from the expertly carved bones of the songs to the fathomless shimmer of the album's surface. Unlike Love Is Hell, which wallowed in murk, or the self-styled dazzle of Gold, Ryan Adams is designed for comfort, placing as much import on the rolling aural waves as what lays within a song. This suppleness is quite alluring: Ryan Adams is a record that can slip into the background, providing the soundtrack to anything from heartbreak to a lazy Sunday morning. If Ryan Adams was merely sonic candy, it would've been enough, but this is also one of Adams' cannily constructed records, one that runs deliberately lean. Whenever the soft shimmer of his Yacht Rock resurrection yields, it's to draw attention to his vulnerability: "My Wrecking Ball" and the Springsteen rockabilly homage "I Just Might," the bittersweet twilight coda "Let Go," all seem stronger because they're departures from the purposeful polish. These songs puncture the gloss, so they make the greatest first impression, but that glimmer remains the reason to get lost within Ryan Adams: his blend of song and studio craft turns this eponymous album into the equivalent of a substantive, new millennial version of the Eagles' Long Run.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine