Grade: A- |
Say hello to the hardest working man in music. This dual disc set, Cold Roses, marks Ryan Adams’ sixth release since parting ways with Whiskeytown to embark on his solo career in 2000. Six albums in as many years, not to mention he has two more albums outside of Cold Roses set for release deeper this year.
Truthfully, I don’t know when this guy finds time to eat much less shower. Well come to think of it, he did smell a bit gamey at the last show. The prolific genius has returned to the comfort of his alt-country roots in the sprawling effort, Cold Roses. It’s a sweet homecoming akin to sitting on the porch as the burnt sun quietly tucks itself under swaying fields of wheat.
Adams had taken a bit of a detour from his signature alt-country of late to explore the alternative musicians sitting around the card table of his heart. The appropriately named Rock N Roll was a walloping guitar spiced set that showed no youth spent buried in Black Flag records is ever ill spent. Love is Hell was the silent, thoughtful moments steeped in introspection over life’s pain. Both were the manifestation of brief Polaroids he introduced us to, scattered throughout his first three solo works.
As exciting as it was to see him explore these corners of the map, it’s nice to have him back doing what he does best. He is living proof that country music isn’t dead. It’s living vibrantly through artists like Adams, Neko Case and Tift Merritt. Just like rock and pop, smart country tunes are animals marked for extinction. We have to enjoy them on those spare moments we happen across them.
This album takes its time in allowing you to warm to it. Each listen brings a new set of revelations and levels of appreciation. These are Adams’ usual complex tunes that hang in your throat and don’t allow you to quickly slip them down without considering what you’ve taken in.
He brought along his Rock N Roll guitar for the rousing “Beautiful Sorta.” He also didn’t forget the depressive tunes huddled tight in the dark well of Love is Hell. “How Do You Keep Love Alive” just quivers as it tries to let go of a love that expired too soon. His misery weighs on us like a wet shirt. It’s beautiful even though it’s so painful. There are certainly patented Adams’ favorites wrapped in the catchy swing of “If I am a Stranger” and “Let It Ride.” He befriends his wild mood swings as he did so well on Heartbreaker.
For an 18-song album, it is amazingly consistent. There are a couple of songs that would have been better falling off into the B-side bin, but these are definitely the exceptions to the rule. The sleepy second disc closer “Friends” and the jagged, raw texture of the title track are prime examples. Over the dozen or so listens that this album has worked me over, each one of the songs on Cold Roses has created a life of its own. They keep getting more distinctive, intricate yet smooth.
The best moment across the discs is “Meadowlake Street.” It starts as little more than a whisper kept company with a low acoustic guitar. Its words are dripping of heartbreak, “If loving you’s a dream/ not worth having/ then why do I dream of you?”
Outside of your notice, it steadily ramps up the tempo until the last stanza is slung forward like a bullet out of a gun. The different elements of the band suddenly come into focus resonating around Adams’ aching voice. Adams seems to be acquainted with heartbreak a little too well. It equates to beautiful albums resting on longing, but you just hope he gets as much enjoyment from love when it’s good. He did give us one of the most perfect love songs ever in “La Cienega Just Smiled” so I guess that answers my question.
Cold Roses is seriously good. In looking at his solo catalog, I’d probably put this on par with Gold, his second best work after Heartbreaker. Cold Roses mines Adams’ more contemplative lyrics from each of these albums providing a mixture of upbeat and down tempo numbers to attend to each variation of emotion tugging on your shirt sleeves. If his next two releases this year come anywhere near the quality housed in Cold Roses, forget the stinking rooster. There’s a new cock on the block. We are going to have to change the Chinese calendar to make this the year of Ryan Adams.
For more music critiques by this reviewer, please visit PM Media Review. Also be sure to check out Ryan Adams’ “Meadowlake Street” along with the best cutting edge music on Internet radio featured on Live365′s Innovative Radio.