Out of the ashes

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Music - DAVID CRADDOCK

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]

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