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Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire - Pax-Am/Capitol

He’s been one of the most prolific songwriters over the past decade; a musical shape-shifter whose ambition and fearless desire to create regardless the genre has made him one of the most admired songwriters in recent memory. For Ryan Adams making music was the only option. So when a near career-ending wrist injury forced him to not just slow down, but halt his music the future was unclear to say the least. The announcement of Ashes & Fire, Ryan’s new release, brought a new kind of excitement but the usual question of what to expect. No it’s not a metal record, nor is it a Cardinals collaboration or trip back to Rock N Roll. Simply stated, it’s Ryan Adams.

Ashes & Fire is a solo, acoustic album. It’s a set of songs that relies almost entirely on Adams and his guitar. It does sport some key guests like Adams’ wife Mandy Moore and Norah Jones on backing vocals, and more notably Benmont Tench from The Heartbreakers whose flavor and flare on the B3 add just the right amount of texture to this collection. Many have, and will continue to compare this newest album to Ryan’s Heartbreaker debut and stylistically it makes sense. It’s also a connection in that Glyn Johns father of Heartbreaker producer Ethan Johns is behind the board on Ashes & Fire. But step into the mood the record and you’ll feel the difference. We find Adams reflective on those younger, darker days on songs like “Lucky Now.” And as you trace the images of “dancing in the dirty rain,” sailboats, ocean sides and rocks in the river, it only adds to a certain warmth that these songs possess.

There are so many sides of Ryan Adams it’s always difficult to pinpoint which one you’re attracted to the most. Like so many great songwriters, sometimes you just need to strip away the fuss and let the stories be told. That seems to be the approach on Ashes & Fire. These songs remind you how powerful a song can be, and in the case of Ryan Adams what a talented singer he is.

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