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4.4 out of 5 stars
Ashes & Fire
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
I love Ryan Adams, and you need to know that up front. That said, I've been a little let down by Easy Tiger, which I loved at first, but which has not stayed in my CD player as much as say Cold Roses (probably his masterpiece!) or the somewhat misunderstood genius of 29. I was worried that this CD could be a return to more Easy Tiger style stuff, which was good but not very memorable. I am so pleased to be wrong. Dirty Rain, the first track, starts us off on an easy midtempo folky song with a great melody and a fantastic vocal, full of the passion and grit that we've missed a little recently. You've probably heard Ashes & Fire by now if you are a Ryan Adams fan, and it is a good one. I haven't heard him use the waltz beat very much, and he uses it well. The vocal on "Kindness" is absolutely transcendent, it reminds me of the best vocals from Cold Roses, and the use of the organ subtly in the background is very welcome. I love the piano touches, which are not overboard, and I love his gentle drawl. I love this song, and for me it is probably the standout of the record. Fans of alt-country Ryan (as opposed to Rock N Roll Ryan, Heavy Prog Metal Ryan, English 80's Pop Ryan, Rap Ryan, Death Metal Ryan, or any of the other incarnations that he inhabits with remarkable facility) will find much to enjoy. For me, his voice--by turns gentle, trembling, cracked, gritty, and melodic sounds fantastic here. Ryan does a lot of styles well, but this is the style at which he is the acknowledged master, and this set of music will make those who love his heartbroken tales of woe and love gone wrong very very pleased that they have continued to listen.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2011
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
First of all, I find that people really don't seem to understand Ryan Adams. Since "Gold" he has released pretty sonically-thematic albums, he tends to save the acoustic songs for an album, the rockers for another, etc. He's such a prolific songwriter, I can't say I disagree with his method. I'll bet he has a big electric album coming soon also for all of you who want that side of him. I've also heard that this quieter album and his subsequent solo acoustic tour have to do with his current hearing problems from playing with Whiskeytown and the Cardinals electric for all these years. That said, I find the melodies to be strong and reminiscent of the Gram Parsons reference he's been trying to shake for all these years with his different adopted personae but has outlived. I think Glyn Johns definitely brings a decidedly classic-rock, California country-rock vibe to this album with his production. It reminds me of Neil Young's "After the Goldrush" quite a bit actually. "Dirty Rain", the title track and "Do I Wait" are definitely standouts but I also found myself drawn to the more laid-back "Rocks", "Save Me", "Kindness" and "Lucky Now". A very, very solid albeit laid-back record. I actually think a big loud rocker would have ruined this record for me, I'm sure he has those to come and I love that side of him also, but not on this album. I'm perfectly happy with a laid-back record with good melodies and the acoustic vibe.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2011
Format: MP3 MusicVerified Purchase
This is an album that I have waited for....the songs are not from his wild rock n roll side but instead from his mellower and deeper side of him. Each song is perfectly written and performed. If you love his songs like Damn Sam, La Cienega Just Smiled, Come Pick Me Up, you won't be disappointed. He really is Brilliant! This is the side of Ryan that first made me notice him. Of course, he's a natural as a rock and roller and he is at the top on my list, but this more mellow side is what I love about his music.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Now a sober man with a Hollywood wife, a Hollywood house and his own record label, Pax Am, Ryan Adams has released the first record of his second act, a mellow and warm singer/songwriter effort called Ashes & Fire. The two things you're bound to hear about this record - if you're the investigative type - is that: 1) The record is quite mellow and fells like something of a brother to Neil Young's Harvest and After the Goldrush; and 2) Adams has become, maybe above all else, an incredible vocalist.

In a 2001 interview, following the release of his make-or-break sophomore solo release, Gold, Adams spoke about his then-strict routine, where he forced himself to spend an hour each day working on songwriting, an hour each day practicing guitar and an hour or more each day singing. It was no surprise then that, following Gold, Adams became one of the most prolific - and consistent - songwriters of his generation, releasing 12 albums between his breakthrough release, 1997's Stranger's Almanac, and today's Ashes & Fire. All along it's been said that Adams was a heavy user, living out the mission set forth in his 2001 song "Firecracker," where he sand "Everyone wants to go forever / I just want to burn up hard and bright." Clearly, things have changed, and Ashes & Fire is the document.

What first took my attention was the look of the record. Adams, also a painter and novelist, had never struck me as a man with an overall aesthetic like, say, Thom Yorke or Jack White. That is, not one to speak too highly of. Mostly, Adams - for me that is - was a lousy painter and poet who could make great, great songs that sometimes had very good lyrics. Then came Ashes, a beautifully presented record that begs me to believe that, as a sober adult, the man has more tolerance of the things outside the recording studio. And while the beautiful presentation of the record does seem distantly symbolic in relation to Our Man's transition from punk to adult, the real star of the show, as it should be, are the 11 songs - a collection Adams himself has already called his "best yet."

Opener "Dirty Rain," a delicate and detailed composition heaped with 70s-era style turns, certainly starts things off right, working as an introduction to the artist's new era. In the song (or so we assume), Adams narrates from a third person perspective, juxtaposing his early 2000s rock star residency in L.A. with his modern - and much more settled - tenure in the town (he inhabited New York City in the interim). A beautiful opening that will resonate deeply with his longtime fans, putting to rest the inevitable "he was better when he was stoned" chatter in a classy, admirable manner.

Track two, the record's title track, is the most upbeat offering of the collection, feeling like something of a celebration of the man's abilities. He howls, strums and bangs in a way only he can. You'd be hard pressed to find a working rock musician with the ability to make a song as classic-sounding as "Ashes & Fire." Maybe they can sing as good as Adams, or arrange songs just as good. Or they're a strong songwriter, sure. But a master of all three key elements, at once, on one song? Classic tracks like this are rare. Very rare. But far less rare for Adams than most.

If you've heard the above-mentioned Young records and are familiar with Adams' records like Gold, 29, Easy Tiger and Jacksonville City Nights, then you should have a pretty good idea of what Ashes & Fire sounds like. Overall the record is consistently mellow and most definitely thick and warm. There are instant classics like "Save Me" and "Lucky Now" and slow burners like "Invisible Riverside." The writing isn't his most interesting to date but the singing soars like never before and the arrangements are heartbreakingly beautiful. Sure, I'd like to see the guy stomp his boots a little more here and there (he's one of the best ever at that), and I know he has more adventurous records up his sleeve. But if you're looking for front-to-back listenability, it's hard to top this collection sweetly twangy, surprisingly uplifting tunes. The biggest difference here is that, for the first time ever, Adams has offered up a collection of songs that feel, for the most part, wholly positive. Hopeful. Tender. He rarely went there before (only "Dance All Night" and "So Alive" come to mind at the moment), to that positive place in his songwriting heart, but when he did, it was always damn good. Rest assured, Ashes & Fire, a new era Ryan Adams for sure, continues the streak, but with a new twist. His best since 2007's classic Easy Tiger.

97/100

Read more of my music- and film-related writing at [...]
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2012
Format: MP3 Music
Like Lenny Kravitz or The Black Crowes, you could play spot-the-influence with Ryan all day long. This might be the first "Ryan Adams" Ryan Adams album. It's everything I like about him. All his strengths are present.

No need to go through the songs, the whole album is high quality and very consistent. Some have said too consistent. First single "Lucky Now" is easy on the ears, and if you like that, you'll enjoy all of Ashes & Fire.

Maybe I'm easy to please, as I love the rock of his Rock N Roll album as much as I like the rainy day tunes on Love Is Hell. But if I had to choose just one Ryan, this is the one. He has so much talent, AND the love of Mandy Moore. Bastard.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2011
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
This CD is art; Ryan Adams is at his best lyrically and musically. I finally got this CD today (I live abroad), and I can't take it out of my player. Each time I listen to it, I find something new, something relieving, and something beautifully sad. Ryan Adams rules!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2011
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
What a perfect CD - mellow and thoughtful. What a prolific and talented songwriter. The beauty of this CD is the simplicity of the music. No unnecessary vocal exercises or in-your-face instrumentals to over shadow the lyrics. Add Norah Jones piano and vocals along with Mandy Moore's harmonizing...Mr. Adams has created some incredible music with this one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2011
Format: Audio CD
This new Ryan Adams album is fantastic, almost every single song is a keeper. I am a huge fan of his "Love is Hell" double album and this new work does not disappoint, it raises the bar. If an album this good could come out every day, the world would have no troubles. This isn't just a CD full of good music....this is a collection of beautiful, touching, emotionally moving songs that I will have with me forever, like a killer tattoo. It's that good. Thanks Ryan.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2011
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
A great album through and through. If you want a good preview of it, I recommend checking out the video of "Ashes and Fire" on You Tube. He is alone in a radio studio in some other country, just him and his guitar and harmonica, and the performance is a stunner.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2011
Format: Audio CD
I first saw Ryan Adams in the 1990s with Whiskeytown, and he is one of the few who lives up to his potential. Liked that band a lot, but didn't love Ryan Adams until Heartbreaker. Lost interest somewhere along the way -- not with the music, really, but with the constant new records I couldn't keep up with. And then I started missing him. Where's Ryan Adams? Gold sounded like an album that *wanted* to be a classic. This one just is, and it's beautiful. Songs are so nice, the singing is pure and free of gimmicks and imitations that would sometimes pop up in the past. Production is timeless, which means it's not whatever flavor of retro currently current.
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