Album Review

Ashes and Fire

Ashes and Fire

by Ryan Adams


Pax Am
7.5 / 10
24th October, 2011

Reviewed by Janine Harrison


Ashes & Fire: surely the most apt album title released this year. Ryan Adams has indeed risen from the ashes of his previous incarnation both personally and professionally; gone are the hard living New York days, life is now all about staying in with his cat and wife (Mandy Moore) in LA drinking tea.

Professionally too - although his direction hasnít exactly changed - he has become adept at self-editing, something he has always been notoriously bad at. None of his albums released post Gold were classics because for every 'So Alive' there was a 'Note to Self: Donít Die'. And whilst an ardent fan like myself may want to own every single noise made by their favourite artist, it doesnít necessary follow that they want to listen to it.

Ashes & Fire follows some pretty tough years for Ryan Adams as Meniereís disease forced him to stop singing and playing altogether, although this arguably provided the impetus for cleaning up his act, finding love and finally finding the right words and motivation to express that current state.

The first few tracks are bluesy: 'Dirty Rain' -  honkytonk,  'Ashes & Fire' - with Ryanís most convincing Bob Dylan vocals to date and acoustic 'Rocks' - which doesnít so much, but itís low key strumming and understated vocals are a thing to behold.  'Do I Wait' marries haunting vocals with a soaring guitar solo and while Ryan Adams has lamented the destruction of his voice from too many wild nights and packs of smokes, there is no sign of that here.

'Save me' drifts along like a Van Morrison tribute and in fact this middle section of the album  - 'Chains of Love', 'Kindness' - does fall a little too heavily into Ryanís previous forays into adult-orientated rock. See Easy Tiger and Cardinology, or perhaps better still...donít. However the lead single 'Lucky Now' follows next and is the best thing heís written in years. Honest, heartfelt and smart, the lyrics explore every 30-somethingís thoughts Ė did I really used to do all of those things? Did you? If we did, how are we still alive?

Ryan Adams stated he wanted this album to ultimately feel like a long hot summers driving around California and for the most part I think he achieves this - though it seems more like a leisurely cruise on a bicycle then a hot throttle in a Cadillac.  He has been accused of many things but I think on this album he shows the critics what he can achieve when he puts his mind to it. This album shows what a talented singer songwriter he really is and while it's arguably true that the best songs - particularly Adams' - are written while wallowing in genuine heartache it seems Adams has contentedly matured - and heís not ashamed to say so. Not quite a Heartbreaker but definitely up there with Gold and Cold Roses; one to win over critics and new fans alike.




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