“I feel empty, I feel tired, I feel worn/nothing really matters anymore,” Ryan Adams sings on “To Be Without You,” the standout cut from his new Prisoner LP.
It’s just one of many moments where Adams oozes heartbreak and despair on a record that, like Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, documents a divorce. On it, the singer chronicles the anguish that came with his spilt from singer Mandy Moore, and listening to Prisoner, it’s hard not to want to give Adams a hug and remind him that time does, indeed, heal all wounds.
While the lyrics are single-minded throughout, Adams is a musical chameleon on “Prisoner,” resulting in a mix of bawdy rockers and restless ballads that wouldn’t sound out of place on records by Gordon Lightfoot, Bryan Adams, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Nebraska era Bruce Springsteen.
Unlike Dylan’s 1975 manifesto of marital meltdown, Prisoner is not quite a masterpiece; nor is it Adams’ best album. But it’s a gutsy declaration of human frailty and personal fragility that never wallows in self-pity and leaves the listener feeling nearly as devastated for Ryan as he obviously is over the bust-up of his marriage.