Ashes & Fire

I first saw Ryan Adams play live in 2002 at the Warfield. To this day, it remains one of the best (if not the best) live shows I’ve ever seen (and I have been to a lot of good shows.) I was 18 and watching Adams, who was in his late 20s at the time, smoking cigarettes and drinking on stage, in his super skinny jeans and boots, while just playing his damn heart out remains a seminal moment in my understanding of what exactly rock and roll can be.* Several years (and several Adams shows) later I experienced Adams at one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen – he was seemingly so drunk/high that he couldn’t remember the words to his own songs. It was, rather obviously, a depressing moment to witness.

And then he got sober, which was obviously the best possible thing for him as a person (see: the infamous “Ryan Adams Didn’t Die” NYT headline,) but I will admit that I was one of the people who worried that he would never make music at the same level post-sobriety as he did before. Because before, when he was on fire, it was magical. And the first time I saw him play after getting sober, he was good, but that spark was missing.

But then I heard Ashes & Fire, and most of those worries went away. This album is brilliant, albeit in a quieter way than some of his earlier albums. Less rock and roll, lots of beauty, a sort of perfect album for winter. I’m not sure I would have made “Lucky Now” the first single (I’d probably have gone with “Chains of Love”, although my favorite track off the album is actually “Kindness”) but they did, and as of now it’s the only track with a video, so here you go:

Buy this album, put it in your car or on your iPod, and listen to it over and over again.

*call it alt-rock, call it alt-country, call it alt-country-rock, call it anything you want, but Ryan Adams was rock and roll personified in his early career.

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