October 11, 2011 - PAX-AM/Capitol
Ashes & Fire is a new, yet familiar chapter for Ryan Adams; a departure from his veiled, wayward nature and refocused on the present without comprising his eloquent songwriting. “Dirty Rain” introduces the record’s perpetuating theme of forward motion through the voice of a person who has suffered the untimely loss of a loved one. Adams describes positive memories of the situation by optimistically remembering a devastating loss. “As the stars exploded with the gunfire/I saw you smiling just before/Last night I was here, you were crying/You’re not crying anymore.”
The recordings have the warmth and pop of a vinyl record, creating a perfect environment for Adams to honor his influences. The title track is a loosely structured tale of a beautiful woman plagued with desperation backed with jangly piano arrangements and a few incoherent lyrics, allowing Adams to give a subtle nod to Bob Dylan. In “Do I Wait,” Adams matter-of-factly states the lengths he would go to salvage a decaying love. To make his intentions clear, Adams channels a Neil Young-style falsetto leading the song into a gentle but unwavering conclusion.
Perhaps Adams’ quieter lifestyle allowed him to realize the memories of his past are becoming dull, as his life in present tense becomes vibrant. “Lucky Now” states it perfectly: “I don’t remember were we wild and young?/All that’s faded in the memory/I feel like someone I don’t know/Are we really who we used to be/Am I really who I was?”
In the final moments of the album, “I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say” is nothing less than a love letter to his wife, singer/actress Mandy Moore. It exposes Adams as a truly fulfilled man, not only for forgiving his past but also for loving someone more than himself.