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Ashes and Rain
The bad boy of alt. country is back on the straight and narrow.
Ed Power, 11 Oct 2011
Who, in 2011, is eagerly awaiting a new Ryan Adams LP? Ten years ago, he was alt. country’s supreme bit of rough, with an irresistible outlaw demeanour and winning line in gunslinger acoustic rock. But a decade of increasingly patchy – occasionally awful – releases have conspired to thoroughly pollute the ‘brand’. There has been a home-recorded dark metal project, a collection of country noodlings so laboured he was forced to put it out himself, and so many half-assed ‘proper’ albums that you suspect only Adams himself is keeping count. All of which makes Ashes And Rain a stunning turn-up. Recorded with producer Glyn Johns (father of Adams’ long-time studio man Ethan), and featuring contributions from Norah Jones and Tom Petty keyboardist Benmont Tench, the record feels like the follow-up to 2001’s Gold that fans had long given up waiting for. There’s the keening lullaby sob of opener ‘Dirty Rain’, one of the best ballads he’s yet written, while on single ‘Lucky Now’ he bashes out a straight-up stomper, sounding more invigorated than he has in years.
In interviews Adams has talked about the rejuvenative powers of going teetotal, while there’s no doubt that his (apparently stable) marriage to tabloid candy Mandy Moore has brought some greatly needed groundedness to his world. Whatever the secret ingredient, Ashes And Rain suggests that, after spending most of his career in the wilderness, he’s finally back and ready to rejoin civilization.