Ryan Adams' first album of all new original material since 2014's Ryan Adams, Prisoner is somehow one of the most personal yet universal works of the acclaimed singer/songwriter's mercurial catalogue and the only record he could make at this point in his life. It's heralded by lead single "Do You Still Love Me?" – a heartbroken power ballad and one hell of an opening salvo. From there, Prisoner takes a hard left into a compelling series of studies of beauty wrung from pain and introspection.
From the title track that gave Adams the thread to weave the entire album from scratch, through the signature bittersweet restraint of second single "To Be Without You" to the classic Adams combo of uplifting melodies dredging spiritual depths on third single "Doomsday," Prisoner is a cathartic and compelling listen – and one that goes by all too fast. The songs virtually unfold before the listener in real time from sketches in the back lounge of a tour bus or live room of Electric Lady or Ryan's own PAX-AM studios – then by the time the album's occasional glimmers of light coalesce into an outright shine with the closing notes of "We Disappear," it's time to dive back in again...
Prisoner's immediacy is a direct result of its creator's all-consuming need to document the songs on the record as they came to him and took hold. Every rare and precious bit of downtime in the wake of 2014's Ryan Adams entering the U.S. chart at a career high No. 4 – a frantic two year stretch that not only saw Ryan tour the world and receive two more Grammy nominations (Best Rock Song for "Gimme Something Good" and Best Rock Album), but also witnessed the release of his Live at Carnegie Hall chronicling two sold out shows at its namesake, while his full album cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 became his fourth Top 10 album – was spent in service to these songs, fulfilling an overriding urge to get everything out – and to get it 100% right.
Then there's the most obvious question of all regarding Prisoner – a question which is best left for Ryan to answer himself: "People will ask if this record is about my personal life. The answer is yes – but the answer has always been yes. I've always written from experience, as someone who's used poetic and artistic license. When has there ever been a time when I haven't been doing that? Obviously, the record is about heartbreak, but it's more than just that. These songs are about finding the true nature of desire and finding out how much more heartbreaking that is than any single event in someone's life."
Prisoner was written, recorded and produced by Adams 2014-2016. While there were able assists from a supporting cast including "hostage negotiator and righteous bro" Don Was, drummer and best friend Johnny T. Yerington, stalwart bass player and engineer Charlie Stavish among others, everything on Prisoner was a direct transmission from Ryan's psyche and soul.