12 Songs, 48 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

When Ryan Adams split with his backing band The Cardinals and started releasing heavy metal circa 2010, his future as one of alt-country's most enduring crooners seemed up in the air. Ashes & Fire laid all doubts to rest, though: it's one of Adams' most focused albums and arguably his best since his solo debut, Heartbreaker. The record stays in a warm, delicately instrumented pocket: the drums are mostly brushed, the guitars are mostly acoustic, and Adams' voice has a relaxed Topanga Canyon lilt to it. When a song like "Do I Wait" swells with Hammond organs and electric guitars, it's like a comet shooting across a starry sky. Highlights abound, but the 1-2-3 punch of "Save Me," "Kindness," and "Lucky Now" is simply breathtaking.

EDITORS’ NOTES

When Ryan Adams split with his backing band The Cardinals and started releasing heavy metal circa 2010, his future as one of alt-country's most enduring crooners seemed up in the air. Ashes & Fire laid all doubts to rest, though: it's one of Adams' most focused albums and arguably his best since his solo debut, Heartbreaker. The record stays in a warm, delicately instrumented pocket: the drums are mostly brushed, the guitars are mostly acoustic, and Adams' voice has a relaxed Topanga Canyon lilt to it. When a song like "Do I Wait" swells with Hammond organs and electric guitars, it's like a comet shooting across a starry sky. Highlights abound, but the 1-2-3 punch of "Save Me," "Kindness," and "Lucky Now" is simply breathtaking.

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