What a time to be a Ryan Adams fan. In the two decades since his alt-country beginnings in Whiskeytown, he has rarely left us wanting — the man once put out seven albums in three years, for chrissakes — but few would deny that his career took a bit of downturn after 2007’s safe-yet-satisfying Easy Tiger. The inevitable return to form came in 2014, when Adams scrapped his second collaboration with the legendary Glyn Johns (Who’s Next, Exile on Main Street, Eagles) and left Capitol Records, opting to self-produce and distribute via his own label, PAX-AM. The resulting self-titled LP saw Adams embracing a full spectrum of influences — from folk to new wave to arena rock — rather than isolating them from album to album (see: Heartbreaker vs. Love is Hell vs. Rock n Roll). He wasn’t breaking any boundaries, but he sounded more comfortable in his own musical skin than ever. A year later, he tested the same formula on his top-to-bottom cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 — a heartfelt exercise in adaptation that most people mistook for a publicity stunt — but on Prisoner, he cements it. After his marriage to Mandy Moore unravelled, Adams set to perfecting his guitar tone and pouring his heart onto the page, resulting in one of the best albums of his career. This is his Tunnel of Love, his Blood on the Tracks — an open wound of a record that reveals new depths in its author. While Adams’s songs have always favored the dialectic between pleasure and pain in romance, these feel authentic in a way that his early work — compelling as it was — never could. The twentysomething who wrote “Too Drunk to Dream” and “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart” is now 43, divorced, and (mostly) sober. He has actually lived through the struggles that he so convincingly emulated as a young artist, and his willingness to reflect on those experiences makes for absolutely essential listening.