Ryan Adams
Ashes And Fire


3.0
good

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
October 9th, 2011 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The domestication of Ryan Adams

The best part about being a Ryan Adams fan is that there’s really something for everyone. Do you like populist ‘70s-styled rock ‘n roll, like 2001’s Gold, or do you prefer the tears-in-your-beer country reminiscent of Haggard and Emmylou Harris, in which case Jacksonville City Nights is one of the best you’ll ever hear? Or maybe you like depressing alt-rock akin to Elliott Smith (Love Is Hell), with a side dish of adult contemporary pop rock (Easy Tiger)? It’s easy to be frustrated with Ryan Adams, because he’s just as often to drop a dud as he is to release a brilliant pastiche of past styles. Then again, it’s easy to love him, because if you don’t like his newest release you can just wait a few months to hear another one. That’s why Ashes & Fire could be one of the most “anticipated” Adams albums in years, simply because it’s his first new material since 2007’s Easy Tiger, not counting last year’s requisite demos collection and the “sci-fi metal” concept of Orion that I’d sooner forget existed. The words that attach themselves to Ashes & Fire, consequently, are just those I would never have connected with Adams: tired, restrained, meditative . . . ***ing at ease.

If there’s a touchstone for Ashes & Fire in Adams’ discography, it’s in the album that put Adams on the map, at least critically: Heartbreaker, specifically the acoustic parts of that superb record. Gone is that sparkling electric guitar tone that Adams’ has marked every record with since Rock N Roll, gone is the excellent Cardinals backing band, and gone is Adams’ anguished yelp. The songs here center on Adams’ acoustic technique and liberal use of keyboards, exploring the space between them while Adams sings about true love and miserable love. In that respect, nothing’s changed; the best Adams songs are those that reflect on messy breakups and the darker places he’s traveled, like the gorgeous tale of addiction “Lucky Now” and opener “Dirty Rain,” where Adams’ tragic nostalgia is in fine form. Elsewhere, Adams’ is tripped up by occasionally overwhelming amounts of sap (“Come Home”) or unbecoming schmaltz (“I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say,” a song one-upped only by its own title in terms of clichés).

For an album heavily predicated on Adams’ historically hit-or-miss songwriting, Ashes & Fire is surprisingly steady. Whether it’s the Meniere’s disease that very well could have ended his career or his recent marriage (to Mandy Moore! If I had a celebrity marriage pool in 2001 that would have been dead last), Adams has a noticeably better appreciation for the intricacies of songwriting. Adams’ other largely acoustic effort, 2005’s 29, suffered from a general sense of malaise and engendered boredom rather than interest. Ashes & Fire, however, is nothing really new in the Ryan Adams catalog, but the sequencing and occasional creative flairs make all the difference. Here, Adams fleshes things out with a tentative hand – the guitar solo that closes out “Do I Wait,” the campfire drumming coupled with moody strings on “Rocks” – and is the better for it. “Chains of Love” could very well have been a full-fledged rocker, but Adams understands that more is not always necessary, and is left with one of the finest melodies on the record. Adams has always been a great songwriter at heart, but he’s always preferred to shoot himself in the foot rather than focus his energies in one place. Ashes & Fire is not his best record. It’s dragged down near the end by a sameness that is hard to avoid in an album composed strictly of acoustic, mid tempo alt-country tunes, and his lyrics can be unfortunately maudlin. Yet, two decades and thirteen albums into his career, it shows a newfound sort of maturity that proves that Adams is not necessarily the living example of “if you fling enough *** onto a wall, some will stick.” Let’s just hope he doesn’t follow this up with a rock opera.



Recent reviews by this author
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead IXCaribou Our Love
Tennis Ritual In RepeatDeath From Above 1979 The Physical World
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead Source Tags & CodesRyan Adams Ryan Adams
user ratings (59)
Chart.
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
nowhereman1991 (3)
Back to basics from Adams, but lacking the precociousness of 'Heartbreaker'....


Comments:Add a Comment 
1drummer
October 9th 2011


326 Comments


I'm a huge Ryan Adams fan, and am seeing him next month in chicago. With that being said, I'm afraid to listen to this, but I probably will.

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2011


10543 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

it's pretty good!

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

AggravatedYeti
October 9th 2011


7685 Comments


hoppin on some ryan adams' dick I see

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2011


16785 Comments


Very nice review, Klappy. I'll have to check this out.

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

mallen-
October 9th 2011


1235 Comments


hoppin on some ryan adam's dick I see

shocking isn't it?

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2011


10543 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

he uses me so bad but it feels so good

AggravatedYeti
October 9th 2011


7685 Comments


^ like a true rockstar.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2011


31475 Comments


The best part about being a Ryan Adams fan


There's a good part?

Digging: Hyperdub - Hyperdub 10.4

Activista anti-MTV
October 10th 2011


3148 Comments


Nice review

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 10th 2011


10543 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

cold roses is one of my favorite albums evarrr you kiwi

guitarded_chuck
October 11th 2011


3273 Comments


ryan adams is one of my guilty pleasures, love the guy, lookin forward to hearing this

guitarded_chuck
October 11th 2011


3273 Comments


ps jacksonville city nights is one of my faves ever get it if you haven't heard it

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
October 11th 2011


15064 Comments


it's no "love on top" by beyonce

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 12th 2011


10543 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/35305/ryan-adams-new-album-too-coherent

great article

TheBoss88
October 15th 2011


208 Comments


Really liking this album so far.

Steoandnoodles
December 27th 2011


2832 Comments


Really liked this album. =)
His least inventive one but that's always a bad thing in his case. =P

Sticking to his guns and releasing an album as solid as this is fine by me.

TheBoss88
December 28th 2011


208 Comments


This has climbed pretty high on my list of favorite albums this year.

blastOFFitsPARTYtime
March 4th 2012


1477 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Seeing him tomorrow night for the first time. (Love is) Hell yea!



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy