Not the classic Adams fans demand, but he’s moving his ducks into a row...
For the last couple of years, Ryan Adams has been caught in a trap of his own making. A contrary intention to prove he was anything but the saviour alt country that his classic ’Heartbreaker’ created, he has made a succession of so-so records. His last long
player, 2003’s ’Rock & Roll’, was a mess. A transparent attempt to show he knew the rock canon
inside out, it was loaded with dodgy facsimiles of The Stooges, Joy Division, The Smiths and The Strokes. By trying so hard to be somebody else, he killed the assured musical vision that had him posited as a genius in the first place.
Obviously shaken that Conor Oberst, his natural successor, put out two albums this year, Adams is answering with three. ’Cold Roses’, the first of the trio, is a return to form of sorts. Happily
re-embracing the gusty country-rock of his former band Whiskeytown, he sounds and he writes like Ryan Adams again. In places, like the standout ’Friends’, his voice cracks and swoops and is as good as it ever was. This is his second break-up album, chockfull of steel guitar laments to a lost love with plaintive cries of ’When Will You Come Back Home’ and ’How Do You Keep Love Live’. Adams turned 30 last November and it shows. ’Cold Roses’ is more reflective and less intimate than the brash open wound of ’Heartbreaker’. It owes a big debt to Neil Young. When it really gets going, like on the brilliant ’Meadowlake Street’ and ’Life Is Beautiful’, it feels like coming home. Credit must be given to his new band The Cardinals who get a songwriting credit – amongst them the brilliantly named Cindy Cashdollar on lap steel. But it’s still not vintage Adams. The production is too breezy in places and at 19 songs, it is at least half a dozen too long. Not the classic Adams fans demand, but he’s moving his ducks into a row. With two more records to come this year, the omens are good.