|Ryan Adams & The Cardinals:
Cold Roses Label: Lost Highway
Ryan Adams considered releasing a 4-disc set of all new studio recordings a couple years ago, but decided against it after consulting with his pal Elton John. Regardless of packaging, Adams has now spun out eight separate records of original work over the past five years, and that doesn’t begin to include the countless unreleased bootlegs and demos available across the Internet. His latest, Cold Roses, is yet another career landmark, as he shares the marquee for the first time in his solo years with his relatively new band, the Cardinals.
Double discs seem to be all the rage lately. From Wilco to Bright Eyes to Cold Roses, this category of singer/songwriter prodigies apparently has too much to say for just one record. At first listen, songs like “Magnolia Mountain” and “When Will You Come Back Home” divulge Adams’ high regard for early Neil Young. It makes perfect sense then that he chooses to enlist his own adaptation of Crazy Horse, call them the Cardinals, and let such tracks draw out with extended slow-burn jams. Likewise, the desolate western shuffle “Easy Plateau” brims with slide guitar and vintage Crazy Horse flavor, ala Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
While disc one boasts a few really inspiring numbers, notably “Beautiful Sorta” and “Cherry Lane,” it also holds the only real undistinguished portions of the project. The hushed spoken word that is “Meadowlake Street,” as well as a drunken yawner like “Now That You’re Gone,” is aimless and empty, wholly out of place on such a solid body of art. The later disc offers a wonderful Whiskeytown-like prance called “Let It Ride,” the first single, in which Adams confesses, “Tennessee’s a brother to my sister Carolina, where they gonna bury me when I ain’t ready to go?” Both his North Carolina roots and his second home of Nashville are acknowledged throughout this venture, as is a fresh spiritual awareness not evident in prior Adams’ records. “Will you lay me down ‘til I’m heavy, like the rocks on the riverbed that my Savior made,” resounds throughout “Magnolia Mountain”. Disc two also offers a jangling mid-tempo ditty “If I Am a Stranger” that feels like something you’ve been singing along to for years, as well as the killer harmonica romp “Dance All Night,” which is simply one of his best songs to date.
The deft songwriting and veritable cavalcade of string instruments displayed here by the more than capable Cardinals continues to astound. Dylan must be shaking his head in amazement at Adams’ intoxicating storytelling ways. Meanwhile, Springsteen now has good company in the twilight of his career, and Jack White should be consumed by jealousy. What’s even more tantalizing is that two more Ryan Adams albums lay in waiting for release this coming summer and fall. Oh, to be young is to be high!