Review : Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
GuardianThe Ryan Adams of 2000's exquisitely sad Heartbreaker and its chart-friendly successor, Gold, has long been missing, presumed dead, so – after years of career sabotage and patchy revivals – it's a surprise to find him retreading old territory so confidently. Recorded with veteran producer Glyn Johns, this feels like a return to instinctive Adams songwriting: gentle, dewy-eyed country ("Kindness") and lush, soulful pop ("Chains of Love"), MORish but with emotional depths. It hasn't the shiver factor of his debut but there's pleasure in such smooth, elegantly crafted songs after his recent strainings...full text
PitchforkThe early buzz on Ashes & Fire is that it's Ryan Adams' best record since Heartbreaker. If that made you check in for the first time in years, I'll translate: it's his first record that kinda sounds like Heartbreaker. Though his artistic daring over the past decade has been greatly exaggerated, this is truly a bold move for Adams. He can no longer claim to be a victim, whether it's a victim of an untamed creative streak, substances, tone-deaf record execs, or critics who have the nerve to judge him in light of his earlier work. You didn't have to hear "Come Pick Me Up" or "Houses on the Hill" first to see 29, Love Is Hell, Rock N Roll, or Easy Tiger as proof that prolific, self-destructive artists don't always make very interesting music. Above all else, there's the romantic ideal that he's a victim of himself, an implosive genius that could make Heartbreaker II if only his pride would let him belly up to the bar with his "abundance of inherited sadness" again and let the inevitably gorgeous and truthful songs simply take care of themselves.
So, yes, Ashes & Fire is Adams getting on his "I have no act" act. And while these boundaries help make it more effortless and enjoyable than his prior works of dilettantism, the strict adherence to a platonic ideal of a Rootsy Ryan Adams Album can't help but make it feel every bit as limited, a snapshot of him as an artist rather than a full portrait. While Ashes & Fire is somewhat one-dimensional, it at least picks one of his better dimensions. Above all else, it's a showcase for Adams' vocals, and they're uniformly excellent throughout. On the chorus of opener "Dirty Rain", he evokes Willie Nelson's jazzy, note-bending approach to C&W, and whether it's the rousing performance on the title track or the no-attack Neil Young tributes on Gold Rush-style folk ("Rocks"), he shows a great deal of range without reverting to his past predilections for smarmy playacting....full text
IndependentRemember the Ryan Adams of Heartbreaker and Gold, the albums that suggested the ghost of Gram Parsons had found an outlet in the former lead singer of Whiskeytown?
Well, he's back and – while it may, at times, sound a little too familiar – A&F is almost good enough to banish the memory of the dozen or so albums – influenced by grams not Parsons – since. Simple, soaring songs that are almost the equal of that voice, back to its best....full text
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