Ryan Adams- Ashes and Fire
Record Label: Pax-Am/Capitol
Release Date: October 11th, 2011
In the three years since Ryan Adams has released a proper studio album, his life has done a complete 180. He has gone from a young, feisty, and unpredictable alt-country troubadour, to a newly married, sober adult. In his time away from touring, ryan released aheavy metal vinyl exclusive album, Orion, as well as the outtake record Cardinals III/IV.Ashes and Fire, however, is his first solo album since he left his backing band the Cardinals, and it marks a phenomenal return to his mellow, acoustic singer-songwriter roots and gives us a glimpse into the new person Ryan has become.
The last time we saw Ryan Adams he released his final record with the Cardinals, the rock oriented Cardinology in 2008. The opening track of Ashes and Fire is a stark reminder that Ryan never really lost the classic magic of his pre-Cardinals songwriting; “Dirty Rain” opens up the abilities of Ryan’s voice, which is sounding better than ever before. The title track “Ashes and Fire” is an immediately unforgettable Cold Roses era sounding country rock gem, with Heartbreaker era dynamics. The production on Ashes and Fire is tighter than any Adams’ record to date with legendary producer Glyn Johns working for the first time with Ryan.
Moving into a set of elegant mid tempo country rock tunes,“Do I wait” starts off soft acoustic Ryan before his band kicks into a nearly perfectly constructed bridge, with the nice touch of background vocals provided by the always fantastic sounding Norah Jones. Jones provides backing vocals on a number of the tracks on Ashes, and Ryan’s wife Mandy Moore even helps provide backing vocals on the sweet yearning song, “Come Home”.
"Chains of Love” mixes acoustic Ryan, fresh sounding strings and the keyboard work of Tom Petty’s band mate Benmont Tench for a well done, if a bit short, song. “Invisible Riverside” is classic Ryan, where he displays his master of musical dynamics. Starting off soft country rock and coming in with splashes of a chorus soaked guitar, and Ryan Adams’ signature lyrics, the song moves into a fantastic blues piece and hints at his new California life. His writing on this record is decidedly more confessional than his usual stories of Small town America. Ashes and Fire shows Ryan at his most personal since 2000’s Heartbreaker, but this time we see a different Ryan, one who is happy and seemingly taking life very easy after breaking off from a period of creativity where he produced 12 studio albums in just 8 years. It becomes very clear on Ashes and Fire that Ryan has a new mindset and is ready to really get back into the swing of his creativity.The first single off the record, ”Lucky Now”, is about the death of Cardinals bassist Chris Feinstein, and is an example of the new Ryan, a song that is undoubtedly a rebirth song for him as he says, “I don’t remember were we wild and young, all that’s faded in the memories".
As a whole, Ashes and Fire is Ryan stepping into a new light. He is still one of the most promising and talented songwriters of his generation and his new personality shines right through on this record, a fine reminder of how age can create beauty.