Album Review: Ryan Adams – ‘Ashes & Fire’

Album Review: Ryan Adams - 'Ashes & Fire'


Forget the disintegration and the metal projects, this is a grand return to some very welcome 'Gold'-era form

While ‘[b]Is This It[/b]’’s 10th birthday was celebrated in nearly every music magazine going, there’s another defining 2001 release that hasn’t quite received the same commemoration: ‘[b]Gold[/b]’, [a]Ryan Adams[/a]’ modern classic. A pivotal album in 2001’s rock rebirth, it introduced the mainstream to a soul with a knack for creating grand, sorrowful music.

But as the decade wore on and the go-to-kid for beautiful balladry grew to believe that he was in both [a]Oasis[/a] (‘[b]Rock N Roll[/b]’) and Canadian metal band [a]Voivod[/a] (‘[b]Orion[/b]’), interest began to fade. Ten years on, with few breaking out the party poppers for ‘[b]Gold[/b]’, it appears it’s down to Adams himself to honour his greatest work– by releasing his best solo album in a decade.

‘[b]Ashes & Fire[/b]’ is a stunning, stripped-back, heart-on-sleeve record that re-captures his irrefutable songwriting ability. On the intense ‘[b]Come Home[/b]’, when he sings “Nobody has to cry to make it seem real”, his voice is leather-bound with authenticity. Sincerity has always been the bedrock of Adams’ music and, at times, you can practically hear the teardrops hitting the piano keys – none more so than on poignant ballad ‘[b]I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say[/b]’.

Of course when dealing with strung-up emotions you can often get things wrong, and on ‘[b]Rocks[/b]’, Adams merely sounds frustrated. There’s still some joy lurking in his bones, though. The title track is a countrified rock number, and ‘[b]Dirty Rain[/b]’ is as sweet as cherry pie. In sound they’re also the closest songs here to his other great work, ‘[b]Heartbreaker[/b]’.

For certain acts, looking back on their career can only serve to highlight their lacklustre present day approach, but ‘[b]Ashes & Fire[/b]’ makes reflecting on Adams’ career seem futile. Nostalgia aside: this is an album worth celebrating now.

[i]Jamie Crossan[/i]


Director: Glyn Johns
Record label: PAM-AM/Columbia
Release date: 11 Oct, 2011