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Ryan Adams and Willie Nelson in 2005 | Photo by Neal Casal | via pastemagazine.com

We’ve spent time over the past few months looking back as far as the 1960s and focusing on the present with new releases, we’ll meet in the middle this week and look back just 10 years to discuss some of our favorite releases of 2005.

Ryan Adams – Cold RosesJacksonville City Nights29

Ryan Adams set a new benchmark in his own prolificacy by releasing three excellent albums in 2005 – the double disc mix of singer/songwriter meets Grateful Dead Americana, Cold Roses; the alt-country (with emphasis on “country”) exercise, Jacksonville City Nights; and the year’s final statement, 29, which features two of Adams’ most sublime compositions: “Strawberry Wine” and “Carolina Rain.” Adams, at the time in a well-publicized period of personal upheaval, certainly could have crafted one single, flawless album, but that’s part of what makes his 2005 output so appealing: the willingness to share it all, and thus open an enormously wide window into his artistic personality. It also introduced us to Adams’ band The Cardinals, who would, with a fluctuating lineup, accompany Adams until 2009. And while they would go on to record a number of above average material over the years, they were arguably never as vital as on Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights. Check out this video discussing Adams’ Jacksonville collaboration with Norah Jones, “Dear John.”

Neil Young – “It’s a Dream”

Neil Young had been making music for nearly forty years when Prairie Wind was released, and though, in sound, the album hearkened back to past classics like Harvest and its more recent companion Harvest Moon, “It’s a Dream” is very much anchored in its immediate surroundings. Young, whose father died that same year, laments the passing of time and inevitability of death, singing “It’s a dream / only a dream / and it’s fading now / fading away / just a memory without anywhere to stay.” That chorus’ repetition is used in response to Young addressing his childhood, some particularly engaging imagery celebrating the wonder of the mechanized world (“and a train rolls out of the station / that was really something in its day / picking up speed on the straight prairie rails / as it carries the passengers away”), and the progression of love as life itself fades away. Like so many of his great compositions, its all done with immense care, love, and inevitably, heartache, and stands as another landmark in his remarkably storied career.

My Morning Jacket – “Knot Comes Loose”

Z was undoubtedly the turning point in My Morning Jacket’s career, transitioning them away from their southern-fried beginnings towards the electronic experimentations and festival-friendly rock that landed them headlining gigs at venues like Madison Square Garden. It was on the back of high energy selections like “Off the Record” and “Gideon” that helped Z reach the #2 spot on our year end countdown in 2005, but this lush ballad that serves as a breather between electric guitar workouts “Lay Low” and “Dondante” is a diamond in the rough, and stands as one of songwriter Jim James’ most beautiful moments. Philadelphia fans may remember a rare live performance when they played Z in its entirety on the Friday evening following the album’s release (and on the same day in which they played one of our Free at Noon concerts) and as we hear his soaring harmonies echo over Carl Broemel’s pedal steel and Patrick Hallahan’s deceptively dynamic shaker, its hard to contain our excitement for a new album from the Kentuckians slated for release this Tuesday.

See also:
M. Ward – Transistor Radio
Smog – A River Ain’t Too Much to Love
Broadcast – “Tears in a Typing Pool”
Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon – Sixty-Six Steps
Mary Gauthier – Mercy Now

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