A Visionary Finds His Stride

Cold Roses (Lost Highway)
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals

By John Bohannon

An artist reaches a rite of passage in his career to where he can release an album and his fanbase will pick it up on name recognition only. After his recent stint on Lost Highway records, Ryan Adams created some records suitable to a wide array of crowds. Some post-Whiskeytown fans were quite possibly disappointed with his two 2004 releases, Love Is Hell and Rock n' Roll, for they were either too dark or too rushed. It seemed as if Adams was striving to pull a Bruce Springsteen in the effort to "save rock and roll," but it crumbled around the hype. But now there is more of a taste of whiskey and something to talk about for those feeling withdrawal, thanks to Adams' recent release Cold Roses.

With the backing of the Cardinals, Adams has created a record that could find a home in any Deadhead's home or even the home of a daily CMT viewer. The opening track "Magnolia Mountain" flows like a Garcia/Weir combo of lyricism and songcraft while "Sweet Illusions" digs up some long lost Gold stylings with the back-up female voices and unpretentious chord arrangement. Adam shows his genuine talent as a wordsmith during the instantly addictive "Meadowlake Street," when he howls the chorus "Something in you dies when it's over / Everybody cries sometimes / If loving you's a dream it's not worth having / Then why do I dream of you."

Adams comes up short with an embarrassing effort to reproduce a New York Dolls intro on "Beautiful Sorta," but the actual song does a hell of a job drawing from rock classicism with its bluesy riffs and back porch stomps.

"How Do You Keep Love Alive" could have been a track on Love is Hell because of its slow piano drone and subject matter. The single "Let it Ride," combines Southern lyricism, loads of lap steel, twangy guitar licks and tap-toeing breakdowns, everything to create the perfect formula for an alt-country tune. "Cold Roses" jumps on the Crazy Horse and rides all the way home to the sound of Neil Young's choppy guitar riffs.

The biggest downfall to Cold Roses is the amount of filler songs. You would think instead of striving to release the two-disc gatefold to resemble the 1970s once again in another form, that one disc of the standout tracks would be enough. But this is also an attribute I most admire about Adams: his ability to pump out tracks that that, while they seem like filler on one of his records, could make any musician jealous. Putting out three records in one year (which Adams plans to do with September and 29 later this year) is unheard of in music these days and instead of bashing these songs the best we can do is applaud Ryan for taking a path over the river when most wouldn't dare step in the water.

Adams is a pure example of an artist that writes music for himself, which is a very commendable trait in our generation with all the tunes that are taking over the airwaves at the moment.