No matter the form, when it comes to art, there are a number of different tacks to take. Some artists continually push their work across new horizons. Others stand a bit more still in order to continually refine the capturing of their vision. Singer/songwriter Peter Bradley Adams falls into the latter category of perfectionists chasing their own perfection. With A Face Like Mine, he may well have caught it.
There’s a confidence, a completeness in the song cycle that listeners have gleaned throughout Adams’ illustrious career, but A Face Like Mine, his sixth solo effort, brings it all into sharp focus. Adams’ brand of Americana nestles his often delicate, always heartfelt voice in the warm embrace of gentle guitar, tasteful dobro, subtle banjo, supportive bass, and unhurried percussion. The result is a sonic scape that, in turn, wraps itself around the listener like a soft blanket on a cold day. With A Face Like Mine, Adams further refines the simple musical sophistication that has become his trademark.
Throughout the self-produced set, Adams tells tales of love and loss, homes and hearts. The territory he mines is a deliberate mix of fact and fantasy. “I feel like I’m, firstly, a storyteller,” he offers, “but it’s inevitable that my own stuff gets in there deep. And it’s funny how, sometimes, I don’t realize it until the song is done.”
Regardless of the details, there’s always a philosophical bent that is often more under than on the surface, firmly grounding Adams’ songs even as they stretch outward. By his own admission, Adams is a seeker who spends considerable time wrestling with matters of faith, though he’s the first to admit he doesn’t have any real answers. “I honestly don’t know what the hell I’m doing… nor do I have the language for any of this stuff,” he says with a laugh.
That seeker’s heart is the tie that so often binds these songs together. Whether the search for place and purpose is of a spiritual or geographical nature, few writers capture the journey as thoughtfully as Adams. An Alabama native, Adams says he feels most comfortable in motion and doesn’t have a strong sense of being Southern, even though his music is rooted in that world in so many ways. And though he sets various scenes with his lyrical imagery, Adams always leaves room for the listener to crawl inside his stories and make them their own.
A Face Like Mine‘s songs were composed all over the world, from Alabama to India, and they dig into topics are disparate as the desperation of addiction (“Lorraine”), the grappling of self-image (“Who Else Could I Be”), the vitriol of politics (“We Are”), and the genetics of suffering (“A Face Like Mine”). “We Are” and “Who Else Could I Be” were originally written for a dance piece that Gina Patterson choreographed for the San Angelo Civic Ballet. Even so, Adams made sure the songs could stand alone in their own world no matter what else was swirling around them — confidence and completeness in action.
As a work of musical art, A Face Like Minefulfills the promise of Peter Bradley Adams. And rarely has an artist’s standing still sounded so divine.