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.