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Album Review

A mellow warmth to Adams’s ‘Ashes’

(David Black)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / October 10, 2011

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Ryan Adams, 'Ashes & Fire'

Following an uncharacteristic hiatus, singer-songwriter Ryan Adams returns with this lovely, low-key effort.

A man of ever-changing moods - from brash rock to country jaunts to shimmering pop - Adams is in a mellow frame of mind on “Ashes & Fire.’’ The largely acoustic album throws off the aural equivalent of a warm, low lamplight and could serve as a perfect soundtrack for meandering late-night conversations about love and hope and sex and dreams, both wistful and optimistic.

The title track is an amiably creaky back porch jam. Tasteful strings fill in the sparse edges of the melancholy ballads “Rocks’’ and “Chains of Love.’’ The mournful ooze of pedal steel guitarist extraordinaire Greg Leisz lends the brooding “Save Me’’ emotional heft. Friend Norah Jones offers up gentle harmonies and piano work on several tracks including the tender “Come Home.’’ And Adams scores bonus points for asking brilliant keyboardist Benmont Tench of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers to add fine touches on piano and organ.

Veteran producer Glyn Johns (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones) envelops it all with a comfortingly hazy glow.

As is often the case with Adams, echoes of his elders abound - Bob Dylan, Neil Young, even a trace of Loudon Wainwright III among others - but never to the degree that they overshadow the artistry of what he does with those influences. (Out tomorrow)

ESSENTIAL “Chains of Love’’