Sunday, October 09, 2011

Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire review

 Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire

 Pax Am

October 2011

Ryan Adams' new record, Ashes and Fire is out Monday and I think you should listen to it.

I know, he has tested his fans a lot in the past. His emphasis has seemed to be more on quantity than quality since his first two epic releases - Heartbreaker and Gold.

2010's III/IV only confirmed that suspicion. iTunes tells me that I have only listened to two of the songs on that record twice, and I'm a big RA fan! I was concerned we had lost the old Ryan.

Early reports are that Ashes & Fire is a real return to form.

As you probably know a while back Ryan declared that the Cardinals had broken up and that he had quit music for good. Thankfully he hasn't. What he has done is sobered up, cleaned up and found his head.

This record comes from a much more peaceful place without a lot of the negativity that could be felt on "29" and "Love is Hell. That's not to say that this is a chipper album, but rather that it is mature. The big guitars have gone and the acoustic guitar is back. Almost all the songs feature Ryan and his guitar with some sparse piano and occasional accompaniments. It allows his voice and songwriting to shine through. Producer Glynn Johns has got the best out of him.

The single, "Lucky Now", is also the stand out track on the album. On it Ryan adresses the death of his former Cardinals band mate and also looks back over the years and how he is changed when he sings:

 "I don't remember were we wild and young?/
 All that has faded in the memory/
I feel like somebody I dont know/
Are we really who we used to be?/
Am I really who I was?"

It is an exceptional track, but unfortunately the whole album does not live up to that standard. It is good, but not as good as he has made in the past.

The album opens with a great number, "Dirty Rain" which sounds like it could, with a bit of fiddle, be a Whiskeytown track. Equally it could have come from Jacksonville City Nights. Norah Jones again makes an appearance which leads to more comparisons with City Nights. Next up is the title track which steps it up a gear before the second best song - "Come Home". Sung over a fingerpicked guitar it features a beautifully simple refrain sung through Ryan's hushed delicate vocals as a little pedal steel fills out the sound.

Elsewhere "Chains of Love" is great and Rocks is solid but a lot of the other songs blur into each other without necessarily grabbing your attention. It is not as good as Heatrbreaker or Gold but it certainly shows Ryan Adams heading in the right direction. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to it and will continue to. I hope it represents a return to Ryan's strengths and perhaps the next record will rise above his already considerable achievements.

Rating: 7/10

1 comment:

Portugal said...

This new Ryan Adams album is fantastic, almost every single song is a keeper. I am a huge fan of his "Love is Hell" double album and this new work does not disappoint, it raises the bar. If an album this good could come out every day, the world would have no troubles. This isn't just a CD full of good music....this is a collection of beautiful, touching, emotionally moving songs that I will have with me forever, like a killer tattoo. It's that good.