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CD Review: Ryan Adams – Cold Roses

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PM Rating System

Grade: A- |
Genre: Alternative Country
Summary: This album takes its time in allowing you to warm to it. Each listen brings a new set of revelations and levels of appreciation.

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.

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About Mark Runyon

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    I like your reivew of the album. I am planning on doing one myself. I agree with you about the way this set slowly grows on you. I have not listened to all of his albums but what I have listened to rarely packs an immediate punch. That’s part of why I haven’t gotten my review written yet… I need a few more listens before I offer an opinion.

    Good review.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Mark,

    I promoted this review to Advance.net. That means I put it here (and these places) where it could potentially be read by another few hundred thousand readers.

    – Thank you for the post. Temple Stark

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    definately a slow-burner. but well worth the time. Stuff like Let It Ride hits you on first listen, but the record as a whole is a just far too dense to shine on first spin. But it’s remarkable. like a cross between his Stangers Almanac-era stuff with Whiskeytown and his Love Is Hell.

  • http://www.pmmediareview.com/default_bc.aspx Mark Runyon

    Thanks guys. This is much more complex than his previous works that hook you easier on that first listen. I remember not thinking much of it the first time I queued it up, but it had that intangible something that kept me going back to it. Of the dozen or so disks I’m listening to right now, this is the one I kept going back to over and over again not really even knowing why. It takes a lot of thought and numerous listens to really get at what Ryan is doing here. That’s quite the artist that can add this level of depth to an unconventional piece.

  • sydney

    I agree, for the most part, with your review.

    I am a Ryan Adams fan but I can’t figure the guy out. Why does he put out so much material, when one third of it is not very good?

    The critics have spent the last 8 years harping on this issue and still Ran Adams seems determined to release everything he writes whether it’s good or horrible.

    This album, though it is pretty good, still has a lot of filler on it. And how will he justify releasing 2 other albums this year, if they are similarly spiked with filler material?

    You see what this all does? It detracts from the great music that he does release. I feel more frustration listening to Ryan Adams than I do enjoyment anymore. I’ve never had such conflicting feelings about a band or artist.

    I hate the fact that I have to make mix tapes of Ryan Adams if I’m gonna enjoy him, because his post whiskey town albums are just not good all the way through.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    sydney, i hear this a lot, but i always say something along the lines of “what would those nirvana fans’d given for a couple more records a year?” Being a ryan adams fan is something close to the best a fella could hope for. always new stuff, man. and i can’t get behind the notion that the albums aren’t good the whole way through. the critical fury unleashed on Rock N Roll was totally insane to me.

    But i see where you’re coming from. he is certainly awfully prolific. But maybe it’s just cause these days folks are used to an album every two years or whatever. Look at Dylan or the beatles. records every year AT LEAST.

    if a fella makes his livin from writing songs and singin them, then i wanna hear em. Provided i dig the fella or lass in question. To be honest, justin timberlake could release a dozen albums a fortnight an i doubt i’d hear any of them.

  • sydney

    Ya I fluctuate between being really frustrated and excited to hear the new release.

    I for one like 3 or 4 songs on “Rock n’Roll” but thought the rest of it was throw away stuff.

    I liked the “love is hell” cd’s better.

    In any case I just think that he could save his b-sides up and release them as a compilation every 3 years or somthing, instead of putting them on the full length albums.

    Anwyay , like I said, I am a fan and he seems to have a rare, rare, raw talent. Though it may be frustrating at times, its never dull being a Ryan Adams fan. Lots of debate…

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    syd, this is very true. never dull. and despite all the stuff in the record stores, i still feel a chill like you wouldn’t believe when stumblin across a bootleg disc of The Suicide Handbook as i did a while back. Ha, never too much, man.

  • Ian

    Hey I dug your review and I agree with just about every aspect. However this is the second revie that I have read that makes no mention to The Grateful Dead. If you are not faminliar with the Dead you should know that this record is in many ways a tribute. From the songwrting all the way down to the artwork, adams is wearing his devotion on his sleave. The song Rosebud is a tribute to Jerry Garcia(Rosebud is the name of one of his guitars). If you are unfamiliar with The Dead I would suggest checking out Europe 72, which features some of their best songs and tightest playing. Thanks for the review. sincerely, Ian Alexy

  • http://www.pmmediareview.com/ Mark Runyon

    I wasn’t aware there was a Grateful Dead connection to this work. Adams did have some Dead-esque art featured on his web site so it’s starting to make more sense now. I can’t say I’ve ever really had a proper exposure to the Dead. I guess those Phish/Widespread Panic stereotypes have always stood in my way of giving them a proper look. I’ll cure my ignorance by checking out that album you recommended. Thanks for the insight Ian.

  • Kikko

    He doesn’t put out everything he records, there are twice as many bootlegs of unreleased material as there are official albums.