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Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cold Roses


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 death.

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 is required.

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 tales.

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.

 

 

Track listing:
Disc: 1
1. Magnolia Mountain
2. Sweet Illusions
3. Meadowlake Street
4. When Will You Come Back Home
5. Beautiful Sorta
6. Now That You're Gone
7. Cherry Lane
8. Mockingbird
9. How Do You Keep Love Alive

Disc: 2
1. Easy Plateau
2. Let It Ride
3. Rosebud
4. Cold Roses
5. If I Am A Stranger
6. Dance All Night
7. Blossom
8. Life Is Beautiful
9. Friends
10. Tonight (Bonus Track)

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