Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cold Roses

Ryan Adams & the CardinalsCold Roses (Lost Highway)

I hated the Grateful Dead in high school. I was a dope. What did I know? I thought the Sex Pistols were anti-establishment and came together from the streets to tear down the mantles of hippy-dom. I had no idea they were manufactured in a fucking clothes shop. As it turns out, the Dead had more “punk” ethic in their day than John Lydon could farmer snot in his.

And so our boy Ryan Adams turns to Jerry and crew in the first song from the new album Cold Roses. This after the less-than-authentic angst and spit of Rock N Roll (review). And he fucking nails it. Shit, it’s even called “Magnolia Mountain.” You gotta admit, the kid’s got balls.

I have long been a fan of Adams. Sure, I bashed a release here and there, but it was because I fucking cared. I knew there was more. Cold Roses finds Ryan Adams back to doing what he does best. I hate to say a “return to form” because I wouldn’t want to stifle the guy to rehashing Heartbreaker for all his days, but Cold Roses does find Adams where he seems to be most comfortable—singing songs without adornment or pretension.

Gone is the thick reverb and English accent of Love is Hell (review); gone is the messed-hair over-compensation of Rock N Roll. What we have is what has always been known to Ryan Adams fans: he’s a fucking great songwriter with a beautiful voice.

Also gone is the bloated production of his last three releases. Anyone who was lost recently can cling with devotion to this album. It sounds fantastic. It’s simple. “Dance All Night” is all harmonica and twangy Telecaster. I have recently fallen off the alt-country train but this album retains everything I originally loved about the genre without sounding like a parody.

For Christ’s sake, I am writing a fawning review of Ryan Adams’ new album and I couldn’t be happier.

This album shows the songwriter in his rawest, most vulnerable form in years. The vocals on “Blossom” sound like he’s got a cold, and that’s a plus. It sounds like we just caught him on a night when he’s feeling like shit singing about a girl he’s afraid he’s lost. What’s better than that? My only complaint is that the chorus feels a bit forced. It feels crammed into the song, like the melody was written and the words had to accommodate.

Is it original? Well, what does that mean? You can certainly hear the influences, but this time he’s channeling them through his own lens. Maybe it’s that Ryan Adams channels 70s folk rock better than he does 80s college rock, but it works.

23 thoughts on “Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cold Roses”

  1. Happy to hear it because I pre-ordered that album, breaking a promise I had made to myself to no longer purchase his new output without listening first.

  2. sounds interesting. and definitely geared toward the sounds i’m driven to listen to these days. i had a feeling a while ago when he had mentioned in some article that he was listening to some greatful dead and jerry garcia band about a year ago.

    there are a handful of bands that have pulled from that well lately and done it quite well – the anomoanon, ez t, and arbouretum to name a few.

  3. I’m glad I waited to hear what the good boys at GloNo had to say. And with that, I’m off to the record store.

  4. just gave the whole thing a listen to. it’s good to hear him in his element and not trying to hard. the whole album feels really natural. 7/10.

  5. yeah, i dig it as well. great stuff. i loathed his last release so this is very welcome.

    saw him in l.a. as well. it was fun, good times. good tunes.

  6. I love this album. Cold Roses shows us why we buy his albums and I am glad that he has gone back to his Heartbreaker/Whiskeytown days.

  7. Well, good…I have to find something to trade for the LOATHSOME new Dave Mattews album…guess I’ll give it a shot. I rather liked “Love is Hell” and most of “Rock and Roll” (come on, who doesn’t miss The Smiths?), but am pretty tredpidatious about trying any of his stuff out, as well. Still seething from the “Gold” debacle. Good review.

  8. This is my first Ryan Adams cd, so I was a little worried about it. You know, the dirty stick and all.

    But apparently this Adams fellow is quite the talented artist. I second Derek’s review – this is a fantastic album!

  9. I’ve listened to the album probably 10 -12 times since the day it came out, trying to determine how I feel about it. After much consideration, I’ve made a decision (which could change with repeated listens).

    “Cold Roses” is a good Ryan Adams album that could’ve been great if it didn’t suffer from the Adams syndrome of too many throwaway tracks. While every song on the album is decent, some great, I think the whole package would’ve been masterful had he cut about five tunes (“Beautiful Sorta,” “Cherry Lane,” “Mockingbird,” “Easy Plateau” (which is just a goofy name) and maaaaaybe “Meadowlake Street.”)

    More listens to come. I hope time proves me wrong.

  10. It really isn’t that great. It’s nowhere near as good as Heartbreaker and it sure as hell isn’t on par with any of the Whiskeytown records. It could have made one halfway decent disc but as usual there’s lots of half-assed, milquetoast songs here. You guys are WAY too forgiving.


  11. I really think this album is mediocre at best, and I love Ryan Adams. There’s like 5 good songs (Magnolia Mountain, Sweet Illusions, Easy Plateau, Let It Ride, Cold Roses.) The rest of the songs I don’t like very much. Some songs have good moments but then it will fall apart.

  12. I think if you release yourself from the notion of who Ryan Adams is, or perhaps who he tries to be and just get down to the music as Derek has the truth comes out.

    I did not catch onto Ryan Adams until he released Gold. Whatever the reasons be Whiskeytown and his solo debut passed me by. Gold was earnest if not pretensious in its total presentation, but the element of effort was there and I liked it.

    Cold Roses takes that to the a higher level. This is certainly the element that Adams does most successfully, moments of which peeked through the Love is Hell work, but was totally devoid in RocknRoll.

    This is a set destined in my player to be worn out.

  13. I don’t get it, what do you like about the songs? Meadowlake Street, Cherry Lane, How Do You Keep Love Alive are all just boring. Even the pretty goods songs are just average, and the lyrics are not very good. I just want to know where youre coming from with your opinion of the album. The thing I like best about it is the sound, but that’s no reason to like an album with mediocre songs.

  14. whatever ryan adams puts out is gonna be worthwhile, he always delivers. he could toss a pick at a guitar and another adams’ classic is born.

  15. adam’s comment displayed above tells me either he’s never got his heart broken or he just needs to listen to clay or ruben or something.

  16. Trust me, I can relate to subjects like heartbreak. And to say to me I should listen to “Clay” or “Ruben” is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard…truly insulting. Maybe you just follow Adams blindly instead of thinking for yourself.

  17. First off.. booker, how can you possibly not like Mockingbird? That may be my favourite track on the album. “Love her in the way you want to be loved, but the way I’m loving her it must not be enough”? How can you not like that?

    I agree that the first bit of Cherry Lane is so-so, but I think the song is saved by the ending. I also didn’t like the beginning of Meadowlake Street at first and actually skipped past, but as soon as I actually listened through to the end I was sold on it. That buildup is something else.

    Lots of people are saying there are a few tracks they’re not wild about, but they don’t seem to be the same tracks from person to person, so I’m not sure which ones it would be better without, if any (*cough* beautiful sorta).

  18. Just to chime in but I too think this album suffers from bloating. There are some tracks like ‘Mockingbird’ that seem to have so much potential and then fall short in composition. Others fail to grab me at all while there are several gems scattered throughout the 2 discs. Also Ryan Adams seems to have never matured lyrically, the guy is a Peter Pan when it comes to lyrics. I LOVE Whiskeytown which is somewhat telling because I believe that his writing on those ten year old albums (faithless street, 1995 – strangers almanac, 1997) had as much, if not more depth and maturity than anything he’s put out since. All that said, Cold Roses restored hope that was quickly fading in Ryan and had been since the birth of his bogus New York punk/brat phase.

    I think it all boils down to a Carolina boy who had notoriety and fame thrust on him at an early age. I’d imagine that somewhat stunts ones personal growth. He was what, 16 or 17 in 1995? That’s crazy.

  19. Lets take a few songs off?Which ones?The Beatles should have shortened the White Album as well,I suppose.The songs are what they are.Accept them!Maybe some of the themes he sings about on this album get too close or personal for some people to handle.Cold Roses indeed.It would be a shame for some folks to admit to themselves they have shortcomings or feelings.Could be too,late some night,after your girl dumps you or you wreck your car,the tunes that didn’t grab some of you the first 10 listens will,suddenly,like a lightbulb coming on,have meaning.I loved the Whiskeytown stuff also that many of you have referred to in other reviews,but its time to move on.It isn’t the 90s anymore,and good music like this isn’t that easy to come up on.I’ll bet the Crybabies that nit-picked about some of the songs on Cold Roses will still plop down the money for his next one.I believe Adams and his Cardinals hit a homerun with this release.Looking forward to their next one.

  20. Cold Roses is a masterpiece, definitely Ryan’s best album yet. I love it to bits and it just keeps on getting better and better-I loved the album as a whole when I got it, but I was unsure about Beautiful Sorta and Cherry Lane, but now I really enjoy them for the good-time raveups they are and they provide a great counterpoint for the more balladous numbers. It’s just a gorgeous record.

    Also, how can anyone dislike Meadowlake Street?

    That’s just plain bonkers if you ask me, aiiiii.

  21. It’s always funny to me how someone who loves Ryan Adams like I do can possibly dislike some of his songs that are my favourits…

    I was kind of afraid to buy his new album and felt a great relief when I listend to it for the first time because it gave me exactly what I wanted – beautiful, pure songs like Mockingbird, Blossom, Let it Ride, Meadowlake Street, How do you keep love alive etc. For me the songs sound like some sort of prayers to love and life.. (with that hysterical bonustrack destroying everything in the end, of course)

    Most of the time I listen to his damn heartbreaking voice with head-phones, although he sounds “close” enough without them anyway.

    The only thing I am more afraid of than buying Ryan’s new records is to go to a concert, because of all the horrible live performance reviews I’ve read – that is, I will worry about it if he will ever make it (healthy) to Germany again;-)

    Looking forward to the next one….only a few days to go!!

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