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If Lucinda Williams needs a male counterpart to form a first couple of modern folk rock, Adams might be her man: a windblown vagabond with the ramshackle charm of early Bob Dylan, a bruised romantic with some of the young Jackson Browne’s eyelash-fluttering, manchild allure. Add the strong reputation from his years fronting the alt-country band Whiskeytown and you have an artist banging on the door with more than the usual urgency.
On last year’s “Heartbreaker,” his Sun Sessions-flavored debut album, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was the reference point. On his second, it’s “Blond on Blond,” along with the Band and “Tupelo Honey,” Neil Young and the Rolling Stones by way of the New York Dolls. The more facets Adams shows, the more bound he seems by the gravitational field of his sources.
But while “Gold” is ultimately sprawling and uneven, it’s unmistakably an announcement of a presence to be reckoned with. Adams bucks the drawbacks with his individuality and a prolific gift for melodic hooks. In the best moments--the duet with Gillian Welch on “Enemy Fire,” “Rescue Blues” (a look at the audience’s hunger for an artist’s suffering), the drowsy reverie “Sylvia Plath"--Adams’ blend of bravado and vulnerability is so winning and natural that you wonder why he insists on trying so hard.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.