Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

Here's my review for the long-awaited Cold Roses. Many thanks to Ross for his literary guidance.


It was hard to predict what form Cold Roses would take. Since the collapse of Ryan Adams' pioneering Americana band Whiskeytown, he's made the forlorn Heartbreaker, the classic rock Gold, the abrasive Rock 'n' Roll and the disturbing Love is Hell EPs. During this period he found the time to play in The Finger, a punk rock side project with Jesse Malin, the metal band Warewolf, and record three as yet unreleased albums.

Cold Roses opens with 'Magnolia Mountain', a track that immediately places the listener back in familiar territory. Unlike the brattish stylings of Rock 'n' Roll, or the amphetamine fuelled Love is Hell sessions, it is awash with acoustic guitar and pedal steel. Soon, the whole band is jamming and playing loose, lending the songs a live barroom feel. Count-ins are included and before one number Ryan shouts, "You better believe me L-U-V! Give me a beer!" On this evidence, it sounds as if he is back in the alt country saddle where he belongs.

'Sweet Illusions' and 'Let It Ride' are as catchy as anything that Ryan has recorded before. 'Meadowlake Street' is sublime, starting with just his vocals and finger picked guitar, but building to a towering colossus that U2 would be proud of. 'Beautiful Sorta' is old school rock and blues straight out of the 70s, and 'Now That You're Gone' is a melancholy lament that would be at home on Heartbreaker. It has the same dustbowl sound of Gram Parsons, Neil Young and The Band.

On Cold Roses, Ryan has stopped pretending that he's a cool NYC kid, gone back to his Whiskeytown roots, harmonica, honky tonk-keys and all. It might have been a stronger album with fewer tracks, but small doses are not Ryan's style. As it stands, Cold Roses is a welcome return to form.

No comments: