Ryan Adams ‘Ashes & Fire’ burns bright

By Sarah Contreras

Singer-Songwriter Ryan Adams spent the past decade exploring the musical spectrum.

From the country-soaked twang of Pneumonia to the sci-fi heavy metal of Orion, Adams fans have been treated to every facet of his talent. Now, with the release of Ashes & Fire, Adams has returned to his mellow, Jacksonville-country roots.

On first listen, Ashes & Fire seems somehow familiar, like we’ve heard it before. But don’t be fooled – this is actually a new side of Adams mixed with comfortable guitar strumming. The man who built his career on heart-wrenching yowls about love and drugs has calmed down and grown up. The album’s title track carries Adams’ clear, twangy vocals over a downright celebratory southern beat, while “Come Home” assures that “if you stay right here, tomorrow will be fine. I’ll be here for you, standing by your side.” Clearly, the combination of being clean and sober, getting married to Mandy Moore and overcoming a potentially career-ending ear affliction called Ménière’s disease set Adams adrift on a cloud.

Adams has a knack for writing simple yet completely captivating songs, and it is great to see that things haven’t changed too much. A stand-out track on Ashes & Fire, “Lucky Now,” lacks the old genius of understated songs like “Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.” or even “Cry on Demand.” But even if it isn’t a powerhouse of woe-is-me emotions, “Lucky Now” tugs at the heartstrings. Fans who have turned to Adams in times of heartache can now turn to him for uplift and reassurance. And who doesn’t need that every so often?

Though I wouldn’t recommend Ashes & Fire as an introductory album for Adams newbies (start with Gold or Heartbreaker), I’d confidently say that long-time fans will embrace this new card in Adams’ deck. Pick up the album, out today, and give it a try.