Cold Roses

Studio Album by released in 2005
Cold Roses's tracklist:
Magnolia Mountain
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Sweet Illusions
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Meadowlake Street
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When Will You Come Back Home
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Beautiful Sorta
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Now That You're Gone
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Cherry Lane
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Mockingbird
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How Do You Keep Love Alive
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Cold Roses review

Just when you thought Ryan Adams had gone a bit quiet, he comes steaming back with this fine album Cold Roses, with two further albums due for release later this year. The 18 tracks on this offering roam across a variety of musical styles and bristle with superb playing from his band, The Cardinals. Cold Roses is the record many fans have been waiting to hear — a full-fledged, unapologetic return to the country-rock that made Adams ’ reputation when he led Whiskeytown. Not that the album is a retreat, or a crass attempt to give the people what they want, but it's an assured, comfortable collection of songs that play to Adams ’ strengths. He settles into a warm, burnished, countryish groove not far removed from vintage Harvest-era Neil Young.

Driven by acoustic flourishes and a defeated vocal, When Will You Come Back Home is a sweet-hearted lament for the chances of happiness he walked away from, whilst Cherry Lane’s sprightly two-chord strum hides a frustration that his lyrics struggle to convey. The series of perverse rhythmic and vocal hitches on Cherry Lane are plenty pleasurable, as are the billowing electric-guitar duets over the bridges of Magnolia Mountain and Mockingbird. From its song titles to its artwork, Cold Roses nods to The Grateful Dead, whose classic neo-Americana albums Workingman's Dead and American Beauty could find room for the quasi-mythical Easy Plateau and Rosebud. But songs like the gorgeous Meadowlake Street and How Do You Keep Love Alive are pure Adams, with their subtle melodic shifts and dandelion fragility.

For a good long stretch, Cold Roses feels fantastic – as pretty and affecting as a slow sunset. It’s Ryan Adams sprawling, sighing, regret-riddled epic that trawls through themes of freedom and escape, hope and loss, love and its many disguises. There’s no space for ego on this record: by playing in a band, Adams is swapping showmanship for artistry, and in doing so creating something that’s as musically convincing as it is emotionally affecting. The disc shows maturity in Adams that has never been seen before — a maturity that acknowledges art from kitsch. With Cold Roses, Adams lets the music speak for itself. And the music doesn’t just speak — it sings as beautifully as Adams ’ does, from the desperate bittersweet pleading of Sweet Illusion, to the upbeat, James Taylor-flavored When Will You Come Back Home, and to the dreamy country twang of Easy Plateau.

What makes Cold Roses a success, his first genuine one since Heartbreaker, is that it is a genuine band album, with the The Cardinals not only getting co-writing credits but helping Adams relax and let the music flow naturally. It's not the sound of somebody striving to save rock & roll, or even to be important, but that's precisely why this is the easiest Ryan Adams to enjoy. The coming months with their coming LPs will reveal whether this is indeed a shift in his point of view, or just a brief break from his trademark blustering braggadocio. While his output may be a bit much for some, the fact that these 18 songs are good old rocking tunes is undeniable, and there can never be a surplus of good music.