It’s no secret many who were enraptured with Ryan Adams’s breakthrough record, Heartbreaker, have been waiting for the former Whiskeytown frontman to mine its sound ever since. Shades of Adams’s brand of plaintive mythmaking have cropped up here and there on songs like “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and “Come Pick Me Up,” but he’s shied away from the naked Americana of his debut. Twelve years and 12 albums later, it seems Adams is finally ready to dress it back down again.

Ryan Adams

“Ashes & Fire”

The title track from the upcoming Ashes & Fire shows Adams playing every bit the alt-country elder statesmen he’s become; a rollicking Appalachian waltz winds beneath some of his strongest and most tuneful vocals in years. Underpinned by a whirring B3 organ from Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) and some scattershot piano string plucks, “Ashes & Fire” typifies the kind of heartbroken wisdom and unabashed sincerity that gave Adams his career and, here, lets him get away with lines like, “Cool and silvery eyes / And a heart that’s fit for desire.” The difference these days, though, is that he actually means it.

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