Ashes & Fire is Ryans Adams’ first album of new material since 2008’s Cardinology, after which the prolific songwriter disbanded his group, The Cardinals, and took a long and well-deserved hiatus. Adams’ had been writing, recording, and touring for almost 10 years straight at that point, including a banner year in 2005 in which he released three albums within the span of seven months. Upon addressing some health concerns, Adams’ return to the spotlight with Ashes & Fire is a joyous affair, and the album finds him doing what he does best—performing mostly sparse, acoustic-based numbers that highlight his knack for being a tender balladeer crossed with an alt-country rocker.
In the past, Adams’ has worked with producer Ethan Johns on several of his releases. Johns is the son of legendary English engineer and producer Glyn Johns, who worked throughout the ‘70s with everyone from Bob Dylan to The Who. So, for Ashes & Fire, Adams turned to the elder Johns to produce the album, and the outcome is incredibly noteworthy. The album’s title track is a rollicking country dust up that, at its core, captures the essence of Adams’ songwriting as a whole. On the soft and sweet track, “Come Home,” Adams and his wife Mandy Moore harmonize on the chorus. Elsewhere, Adams is joined by a host of other friends—including singer and frequent collaborator Norah Jones, guitarist Neal Casal and Tom Petty keyboardist extraordinaire Benmont Tench.
All things considered, Adams seems rejuvenated by his time away from making records. After releasing such an overwhelming amount of material over the last decade, it is great to know that he still has got the goods to make great records.