Review: Jack Foley
TO SAY that alt.country singer-songwriter, Ryan Adams, is prolific
is something of an understatement.
Cold Roses is the first of three releases the artist
is planning for 2005 with his new band, The Cardinals, and it
comes in the form of a double album!
Featuring 19 new songs, it's a passionate blend of upbeat melodies
and poignant ballads that looks certain to win the artist many
more fans, while also appeasing his long-term followers.
Yet it also occasionally runs the risk of sounding too contemplative
and a little too monotonous, with the country vibe threatening
to work to its disadvantage.
That said, fans of Adams' seminal work, Whiskeytown,
will doubtless welcome his return to the blues-laden country ballads
that helped to make a name for him.
Of the two albums, the first is most definitely the darkest,
packed with slow-building and thought-provoking observations on
life, love (both inspiring and tragic) and, of course, loss and
Opening with the sprawling opus, Magnolia Mountain,
the album unfolds in such a fashion as to fully do justice to
the multi-talented new band Adams has assembled.
Hence, all manner of guitars weave various riffs together (from
acoustic to slide), while there's plenty of piano and harmonica
to pep things up, or slow things down, whenever a change of pace
Magnolia Mountain, itself, encompasses some heady themes,
including such epic lyrics as 'we burned the cotton fields in
the valley, and ended up with nothing but scars, the scars became
the lessons, that we gave our children'.
And yes, the album does take an hour or two to listen to properly,
such is the meticulous care Adams has taken to construct his heartfelt
Highlights on CD1 most definitely include the tender Meadowlake
Street, with its prophetic chorus 'everybody cries sometimes';
while When Will You Come Back Home conjures wonderful
images of a beautiful love affair.
Cherry Lane and Mockingbird also register strongly,
once more encapsulating the strong melodies and laidback style
that marks Adams at his strongest.
CD2 ups the tempo considerably and includes the lead single,
Let It Ride, which finds the album at its most mainstream.
It provides a nice contrast to some of the more pensive moments
on CD1, and further includes the highlights Cold Roses,
the absorbing title track; the rocky-country-laden If I Am
A Stranger; the harmonica-laden Dance All Night,
with its catchy chorus; and the bonus track, Tonight,
which brings the album to a suitably memorable close.
Cold Roses may have flaws, but it's an absorbing, thought-provoking
listen that rewards the patience of its listeners.
It remains to be seen whether Adams and co can maintain the high
standards throughout the remaining two albums scheduled for 2005.