Listen Up: Wednesday, May 18, 2005
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PHOTOS: 1
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

Cold Roses
(Lost Highway)

By Justin Press

A colossal feat of two discs is once again pulled off by the most prolific musician of the past 10 years. Love him or hate him, Adams is a traditional artist in non-traditional times, someone who actually produces compelling and inspiring pieces of music on his own terms. Wow, what a concept.
Opening with the southern-fried-rocker “Magnolia Mountain,” Cold Roses lays its mission on the line — to deliver an urban take on country, for the kid in the pearl-snap shirt and Chuck Taylors. There’s plenty of gritty acoustic guitar work, lush drums, and sweet, sinewy slide riffage to please both sides of the average music lover’s brain.
On the first disc, Adams searches for Dylan and discovers honkytonk punk. And like his work on Love is Hell, Adams can’t listen to the beat of a heart without hearing sadness. “Now That You’re Gone” couldn’t be more literal, and “How Do You Keep Love Alive” proves to be a collection of some of the kindest words about love ever written.
The second disc opens with the floating slide of “Easy Plateau,” a sonic paean to Freedom Rock (“Well, turn it up!”). The opus’ title track is pure organic beauty — a whisper of soft guitar cracks and reels under the weight of its own sweetness as it accompanies Adams’ dry voice. In case you were wondering, the record even makes room for that wheezing harmonica of his (“Dance All Night”) and the same instrumental and vocal twang you’d find on a stage fitted with chicken-wire somewhere in West Texas.
One indication that Adams isn’t your ordinary musician is his ability to make an even potentially schlocky song (such as “Life is Beautiful”) sound anything but cheap. The emotion is real — you can feel it. The man’s commitment to true artistry may be encapsulated in a lyric from “Friends”: “I don’t believe in love if I don’t believe in you / But I do believe when it comes to you.”


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