Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

Ryan’s new album is out on Tuesday.  Admittedly, I’m gaga for the guy.  He could put four cats and a set of pots and pans in a pillowcase, recorded it as it tumbles down a set of stairs, play it in reverse with some guitar fuzz laid over top and I’d still love it.

The entire album is acoustic, with Ryan’s voice up-front…but still shrouded in some mystery (like he does).  Lyrically, he’s never been more powerful.  Many songs feature progressively written verses or choruses .  That is, the first line in verse A will start with “last night” and verse B will start with “two nights ago”.  I like that.

Here is a track by track review of the album.

1.   Dirty Rain – Starts slow…ends with passion.  Love the dusting of piano.  A fitting way to set the table for the rest of the album.

2.   Ashes & Fire – This one is a little “jangly”, with a bar-room sounding piano.  Almost vaudeville-like.  Cool lyric, “here eyes were indigo, the cats were all calico.”

3.   Come Home – Slow.  Delicate.  Cool Lyric:  “nobody has to cry to make it seem real, nobody has to hide the way that they feel.”  Come Home is such a powerful statement…it means so much, in such different ways.  The steel guitar is “there” just enough…so pretty.

4.   Rocks – The strings come in about halfway through.  The “shaker” is introduced about two-thirds the way in.  It builds musically so beautifully as Ryan sings about vulnurability.

5.   PERSONAL FAVOURITE ALERT!!! Can I Wait – This is the best song I’ve heard in a long time.  Ryan’s voice is forceful, yet reserved over-top a simple guitar and snare-led percussion.  The lyrics are so simple…I could have written them…but only Ryan could.  Highlight:  ‘Do I wait here forever for you?  Would you ask me to ?’  If I were getting married, this would be the first, second, third and fourth dance.  Anybody who didn’t like it, could eff off.  The Guitar solo (yes, SOLO) cuts to your heart, and the twist of the knife is the organ…ouch, tear.

6.   Chains of Love – Another rare “up-tempo” track.  It’s short and sweet.  One of the tracks I’d rank in the bottom third on the record.

7.  Invisible Riverside – Producer Glyn Johns gets a nod here.  The way he delicately introduces the players to carry Ryan to a charming crescendo is not nearly as easy as he makes it sound.  It has hints of Ryan’s track “Into the Ocean.”

8.   Save Me –  A slow building (very slow building) track that I haven’t spent enough time with yet.

9.  Kindness – Lyrically, one of the best tracks on the album.  A song that challenges the listener to question their beliefs and motivations.  “if you’re so kind, can you let down your hand?”

10. Lucky Now – This track has one of those progressive structures I was talking about.  The verses have the same cadence and rhyming scheme…but diffident words that suggest progression.  Example: “the lights will draw you in, and the dark will bring you down, and the night will break your heart, only if you’re Lucky now.”  Later in the song, this chorus turns into this: “if the lights draw you in, and the dark can take you down, and love can mend your heart, but only if your luck now.”  The second this line ends, a guitar part begins that drives home the point with such precision, it’s like the notes are speaking a universal language about hope and fear.  The track leaves you wondering, wanting more.  It’s THAT good.

11.  I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say – This song reminds me of an old Eagles song (Desperado, maybe?)  Not the music, or the lyrics, or the notes…but the pace, the cadence and the delivery.  It’s hard to explain…but it’s true.  Lyrically, I *think* it’s a love song.  A REAL love song… because it presents more questions than answers.  In the tender moments between two people, the truths and discoveries are the most powerful.

It’s out Tuesday…and unless I’m crazy…will be nominated for a few Grammys.

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3 responses to “Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

  1. and win how many of them? I’ll say 6! Mark it.

  2. Grammys? Man, he’s in line for a noble prize.

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