It's funny the best records of the year always come out during the last quarter, at least in recent times. I think I may have found the album of the year, and it's Ryan Adams'. My expectations were riding high for Ashes & Fire, his first proper record since 2008's Cardinology with The Cardinals (last year's released III/IV was actually recorded few years ago and Orion was a heavy metal concept album which saw a limited vinyl-only release). It's Adams at his mellowest and most tender, kinda like Heartbreaker and 29 mellow, but not as depressing as the latter. For me personally, this is the album I can most easily relate to, with Easy Tiger a close second.
The melodies and chord progressions and instrumentation here are things that won't surprise a longtime Ryan Adams listener, cause it's nothing we haven't heard before from the man. The songwriting gets to you, words that cut extremely deep like you wouldn't believe. But it's not only that; it's the marriage of the words and the music, and the results are stunning gorgeous and seductive. They just get into your head and remain there. And trust me, I've never heard him sung this good in a long time. The legendary Glyn Johns is back behind the board to produce, and the Hearbreakers' Benmont Tench plays the keyboards, instinctively filling in the spaces where appropriate. Wife Mandy Moore and occasional collaborator Norah Jones (piano) also help sing background.
It's really hard to single out any of the eleven songs, because I think they're all equally amazing. Digressing a bit, when it comes to reviewing or talking about albums and songs on this blog, I've come to a point where I've more or less run out of interesting vocabulary to describe how good they are. The bottom line is it's always hard to talk music, but for those of us who love it to death and write about it, we try our best to convey our thoughts, enough to hopefully encourage others to listen. Anyway, I can't even begin to talk about the songs on Ashes & Fire, other than to say they're among the most beautifully crafted by Adams. Just let the music take over your soul. It helps particularly late at night with a bottle of wine in hand -- it's one of those records.
Adams has suffered one of the worst possible illnesses imaginable for a musician, a rare condition known as Ménière's disease, which affected his hearing, that could very well have ended his career few years ago. Ashes & Fire is proof that he not only overcame the illness, but he's back to creating masterpiece records again. Despite having made music for more than fifteen years now, I feel that with this album, Ryan Adams' career is really only beginning. Get the CD or vinyl.
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