This seems a bit low, using my own larger forum to respond to a commenter, but I feel it's warranted. I just thought the argument he or she made in their rather curt response to my Cass McCombs post was worthy of further discussion. So here goes:
"Anyone who thinks Ryan Adams doesn't have his own sound isn't listening." -- Sandy
I suppose it's fair to say I'm being a little harsh on Ryan. But, contrary to what you're saying, I think the problem is I've listened too much. Over the years I've worn out every album, every unreleased session, scores of live shows, and even a few tracks that I shouldn't even be talking about. So, yes, I'm listening.
But I think you also have to grant me that Ryan often wears his influences on his sleeve. Particular RA tracks are, arguably of course, facsimiles of certain songs by artists he's publicly named as influencers. Most notably, "Afraid Not Scared" bears a striking resemblance to Radiohead's "How to Disappear Completely". "Tina Toledo's Streetwalkin' Blues" is a Stones' hybrid, half "Brown Sugar" and half "Can't You Hear Me Knockin". And it doesn't need mentioning that his Grateful Dead obsession certainly shines through in his setlists and albums alike. Finally, I remember a quote of his in which, to paraphrase, he said he wanted Gold to sound like listening to a 70s music station, cycling through various genres.
I could make scores of other arguments, but these are some pretty overt examples. I still stand firmly behind Mr. Adams' talent, and I'd be lying if I said he didn't write a handful of my favorite albums. But the more I explore the many, many branches of his flowchart of influence, I realize that he often sacrifices his own creativity for an imitative style. And he usually does it very well, but doesn't exactly challenge the listener. And it's almost universally acknowledged that his last two albums have been exhibited a marked regression. I guess my question to you, or anyone who takes issue with my assertion, would be, "Have you listened at length to these artists who influence Ryan's work?" If the answer is yes, and you still feel that his "sound" is more his own vision than that of his influences, I'd be curious to hear your reasons.
This would be an interesting discussion to ignite; which songs best display Ryan Adams at his purest, as a composite of his influences instead of a reflection of them. Magnolia Mountain? Dear Chicago? Perhaps the unreleased Suicide Handbook or Destroyer albums? Look for an upcoming post on this topic.
In totality, Cass McCombs is a poor substitute for Ryan Adams. He's just taken some steps in his songwriting on Catacombs that I always wished Ryan had. So rest assured I've been listening very closely to Ryan, and I'll continue to do so. But when I hear an album that doesn't seem like it's been filtered through the artist's record collection, chances are I'm not listening to Ryan.
I welcome your rebuttal, although chances are you stumbled across the post and are somewhere deep within the vast forest of interwebs. But if not, have at it! I'll even post it for you.