I must be clear about my bias. Ryan Adams has pounded out most of my favorite jams for years now. Somebody played “Come Pick Me Up” a long time ago, and here we are. He’s hands down my favorite artist/band/songwriter/whatever. Damn near untouchable. He does what he wants, and I stand behind him and all his mood swings. So, in a temper of fairness, I thought it pertinent to let you folks know where I stand.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize the ego-bloated, half-mad, genius, bastard. There are songs scattered throughout every one of his albums that I skip. There are probably even songs I’ve only heard once, because I was turned off at first listen. And he has entire CD’s that I rarely, if ever, listen too—ref. 29, Demolition, Orion. But each of those still has their own winners, no doubt. The man can write an outstanding song and make anybody else that tries look damn foolish.
So with this album, as with all of them, I think about which songs will forever make their mark on my eternal Ryan Adam’s playlist. What’s going to share a place with “Magnolia Mountain,” “Bartering Lines,” and “The Hardest Part?”
“Dirty Rain” starts the album off perfectly well. The soft drums, Norah Jones tickling the ivories, and dark, the striking imagery of the lyrics all make it irresistible.
“Ashes and Fire” is raucous compared to some of the softer things on this album. It sticks with you.
“Do I Wait,” the album’s lighter waving sing-along, won me with the fantastic guitars.
“Chains of Love” is catchy as hell. Good song. Gets in your head.
Number 10, “Lucky Now,” shows some maturation in RA. Fantastic lyrics and harmonizing guitars that complement the song rather than be a highlight unto themselves.
And this album couldn’t end any better than it does. “I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say” is a muted and sweet finale.
So there are my picks that I expect to see on the forever playlist. Over 50% of the album. That doesn’t mean the rest of it is in any way bad. RA hasn’t written many awful songs, and none of them are on here. Some were sappy (“Come Home”), some put me to sleep (“Kindness”), and some just didn’t impress me. But he’s still far ahead of the mainstream music pack, even on his off days.
From my diehard Adam’s fan standpoint Ashes and Fire hovers near the top tier of his work. Not strong enough to be my favorite, but definitely one I’ll come back to over and over again. When stacked against the rest of the music industry my man RA is busting heads with this one. Mature, understated, and focused. A winner, as far as I’m concerned. Give it a listen.