July 31, 2008

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Peter Bradley Adams, Leavetaking
Sarathan Records, Aug. 5

If people were plants, the open-hearted American folk of former Eastmountainsouth multi-instrumentalist Peter Bradley Adams would be Extra-Strength Ortho Gro. The L.A. gloss with which he brushes his stuff isn’t as frowned upon by indie-rockers as it used to be, being that most one-man acts can nowadays get big-league engineering out of a few faders and switches on widgets plugged into laptops, such as what Adams accomplished in his previous album Gather Up.

More so than any other critic in the country to my knowledge, I rained buckets of praise over Gather Up, and after several run-throughs of this one I’m willing to be the shunned idiot shaking the big pom-poms on Adams’ behalf again. Very little departure from his previous formula here as Adams stays the course, expounding with further gauzy Technicolor frankness on his touchy-feely subjects, his smoky, breathy tenor never – I mean ever – landing on a questionable note. The album is melancholy but never mawkish: “Song for Viola” explores that instrument’s ability to weep, while “Always” guarantees to wipe the stoicism off the manliest man who ever tried building a mystery while living with some poor woman who actually gave half a damn about him. Banjos become metropolitan, lonely piano notes plink into still water a la Road to Perdition’s soundtrack, and open-string guitars rule the roost, all squaring with an overall esthetic that’d be ideal for high-anxiety coming-of-age-at-any-age melodramas like Once and Again, things like that. AEric W. Saeger