Out of the ashes
RYAN Adams fans are perhaps the most spoilt of all music lovers.
While acts like Guns N’ Roses can keep their eager disciples waiting more than a decade for new material, the prolific singer-songwriter released no less than 10 albums in the first eight years of his career, famously dropping three in one year alone. Given the alt-country artist’s reputation for free-flowing material, the gap between 2008’ s Cardinology and his brand new album Ashes & Fire may have felt to some like an ice age.
It was also a hiatus that some thought would never end, when in 2009, Adams suggested in a blog that he was stepping back from his music career to find ‘‘ quieter times’’ and to deal with a debilitating inner-ear condition that was effecting his balance and hearing.
‘‘ If you can imagine an alarm clock going off but just like an alarm clock with a tone and imagine if that went off in one ear, every day for three years. That’s what was going on with me at the end of The Cardinals,’’ he says of the Meniere’s disease.
‘‘ I started having symptoms in 2005. I definitely started to realise that something was very wrong by 2007.
‘‘ By 2009, it was brutal. It was so brutal that I had lost a lot of weight from the stress.
‘‘ I had a terrible time sleeping and because you need a specialist for this kind of thing, they were just giving me things to calm my nerves or at times, because of the fatigue, giving me things to overcome the fatigue and do my job. At the time it became unbearable and too much and I had to stop.’’
During the break, Adams’ die-hard fans could cling to a bizarre heavy metal album, a collection of never before heard studio tracks from his band The Cardinals and two books of short stories and poetry but for all intents and purposes, with Ashes & Fire, Adams is back.
Adams attributes a combination of acupuncture, alternative therapies and hypnotherapy with helping him make the pain more manageable and return to music.
While past albums like Love is Hell have translated pain or anguish into achingly raw folk, country and rock, Ashes & Fire is arguably a calmer and more peaceful record.
Helping Adams achieve this newfound sense of serenity is his good friend Norah Jones, who contributes to the delicate, melancholic calm that drifts over tracks like I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say.
Jones plays piano on seven of the album’s 11 tracks, while Adams’s wife Mandy Moore lends back-up vocals to Come Home and the ethereal Kindness.
‘‘ That week she text messaged me saying, ‘ I’m coming to town next week, I want to play’,’’ Adams says of Jones.
‘‘ And I was like, ‘ LOL I’m actually recording with Glyn [ Johns] that week’, and she was like, ‘ OMG I’m totally going to play! Kick the piano player out, I’m playing’.’’
The record also gets plenty of star power from behind the mixing desk, with legendary producer Johns [ The Who, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton] at the helm.
Next month, Adams will step back out on the road for his first major tour since 2009.
Ashes & Fire Out now [ PAX-AM/ Capitol Records]