Cold Roses – Ryan Adams

Cold Roses

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals


Lost Highway Records

Country music seems to have grown a cancerous stigma attached to it.  I’m not quite sure how this entire genre has been relegated to just being an association to hicks, blue-collar comedy, and Confederate Flag-waving, mud-covered off-roading vehicles.  Although country music appears to be thriving, and one of the most loved genres currently, it is also one of the most despised.  I’ve never come across a genre of music that is so polarizing as country.

Now, I dislike the popular CMT-Country (or what Chuck Klosterman calls “Wal-Mart Country” in his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs).  However, not all country is made by such annoyances as Trace Adkins, Toby Keith, or Kenny Chesney.  This is where Ryan Adams comes in.  Like other alternative-country musicians, Adams got his start in punk music and somehow wound up on the path to his current genre.  Here, Adams has thrived.

Cold Roses is Adams’ sixth solo album (In the 1990’s, he was part of the band Whiskeytown), released in 2005.  His songs aren’t the shit-kicking type that popular country flourishes with.  Adams is a craftsman, adhering to his songwriting tendencies.

It could be argued that one flaw with this album is Adams’ narrow subject matter.  Most of his songs revolve around the same cliche-ridden topic of the angst of love.  However, his lyrics are sung with such earnest self-consciousness that this subject becomes fresh again.  Almost no topic is original anymore, and yet, it is what one does with the matter which creates fresh perspectives.  Adams’ awkward hiccups and cracking voice (two qualities that could be left over from his punk tendencies) help steer his lyrics into a different territory of enjoyment.

His lyrics, too, display the anxiousness apparent within his purposeful vocals.  Bordering on insecurity, the words often second guess themselves.  On “Mockingbird,” he sings “Love her in the ways that you want to be loved, but the way I’m loving her, it must not be enough.”  “Now That You’re Gone” offers us the gem of “And it means everything, well, sort of.”  And, of course, if we’re speaking about the awkward quality in the lyrics, we can’t escape “Beautiful Sorta,” which is apparent even in the title.

Now, in order to create a novel outlook on relationship-angst in songs, the music has to be involved (otherwise it wouldn’t be a song now, would it?).  The Cardinals, Adams’ backing band (which is a term Adams vehemently abhors – he preferred to just be known as one of the members), fill this void amazingly.  Consisting of Brad Pemberton, J.P. Bowersock, Catherine Popper, and Cindy Cashdollar, the Cardinals tailor their music around Adams’ lyrics.  The band explores dynamics to create interesting arrangements.  Nowhere can this be found more than on “Meadowlake Street.”  Starting as the quietest song on the album, with Adams almost whispering his vocals, the song builds as it progresses into a climax of emotional sorts.  That isn’t to say the band can’t rock out, either.  Listen to the song “Cold Roses” with its intertwining guitar parts and vocal-harmony breaks.  It’s been said that country musicians are some of the most talented, and Cold Roses certainly helps that argument.

The most surprising part of this album is that it’s actually a double-album.  Consisting of eighteen songs, each CD has nine tracks.  Sure, many artists have done this.  However, in the context of the time, this is impressive for Adams.  Cold Roses is the first of three CDs released in 2005.  The other two consist of 29 and Jacksonville City Nights, both also enjoyable albums.  I’m just pointing out that for Adams to release three albums, one of them being a double-album, in the span of one year to the caliber of this quality is quite the feat.  For a lowly country star, that is.


One Response to “Cold Roses – Ryan Adams”

  1. […] already stated how great Cold Roses is, and “Beautiful Sorta” is one of my favorites off of that album. […]

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