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Ryan Adams & the Cardinals 

Jacksonville City Nights (Lost Highway)

Six months ago, Ryan Adams released Cold Roses, a lauded return to the roots-rock songcraft of his solo debut, 2000's Heartbreaker. But on the new Jacksonville City Nights, Adams delves even further into the past -- specifically, back to his musically formative years in North Carolina and his early days with alt-country forerunners Whiskeytown. Don't be misled by the "country" facet of this label, however; save rare boot-stompers "Trains" and "The Hardest Part," Nights harks back to times and places in which jugs of whiskey were more common accessories than pickups and ten-gallons. Violins and pedal steel bolster tracks such as "The End," in which Adams recalls his father's voice, jukeboxes and "cotton fields by the house where I was born." And when the instruments swell throughout a whispered "PA" and the Norah Jones duet "Dear John," both tracks ripen into sagas as chilling as anything buried in the Carter Family's back catalog.

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