Ryan Adams is set to release his thirteenth studio album on the 10th of October, which officially makes him an elder statesman. It’s called Ashes and Fire, and you’d be forgiven for wondering if he wasn’t talking about the last few years of his life, as he’s apparently had to re-learn music after developing the inner ear problems due to Ménière’s disease. But don’t panic fans, as it hasn’t negatively affected his work: in fact ‘Ashes to Fire’ is arguably one of his best albums to date. The eleven tracks are consistently good, and we don’t often say this, but good luck picking out only a few to use as singles.
Songs such as ‘Dirty Rain’ and ‘Invisible Riverside’ build and grow into epics, a feat made possible because of Adams’ voice: it can convey real emotion, thanks partly to a good vocal range, partly to being able to sing without sounding like he’s from Glee. But the subject matter is also good, and his grasp of the intimate moments in human life, including heartbreaks, isolation and the human need for the companionship, really gives this depth.
In terms of instruments, Adams has a distinctive use of acoustic and electric guitar as well as a subtle use of drums, and when the piano and violin kick in you’ve got a classic sound. If you’re unable to hear all this on a (legal) stream first, we recommend downloading ‘Do I Wait’ as a taster, as its sombre yet optimistic tone reflects the album.
8 / 10