Ryan Adams & the Cardinals Cold Roses

While it’s difficult to endorse every career move he makes, it’s tough to give up on Ryan Adams. His foray into shoddy punk (the Finger) and slick ’80s modern rock (Rock N Roll) was unwise and his supposed return to form, Love Is Hell, was just plain disappointing, but has anything really damaged his rep for those who didn’t give up on him when he released Gold? Now backed by the Cardinals — just one of his many promised collaborations this year — Adams has backtracked a smidge, gently re-examining his twangy rock roots without committing to a full-on return to Heartbreaker. Cold Roses is not surprisingly an ambitious record, with the prolific songwriter has spread his talent across two discs. However, there’s an instant comforting warmth to this record, as if Adams has dropped the arrogant persona and fallen victim to vulnerability, quivering his voice and keeping the mood peaceful throughout. He seems to have ridden a sentimental streak for the writing of Cold Roses as his heart is on display for most songs. "Meadowlake Street” is Adams at his most susceptible, whispering in a falsetto that sounds beautifully forlorn; "Blossom” is a piano-led acoustic tear-stained ballad; and "Friends,” the album’s finale is a thing of beauty and one of the singer-songwriter’s finest moments to date. Even when he perks up on "Cherry Lane” or "Let it Ride” his confidence is more humility than pride — a refreshing adjustment. As always with double albums, there’s too much to sit through and had Adams dropped the fruitful ambition for once, a fine single record could have been released, but otherwise, Cold Roses is a nice and gracious surprise. (Lost Highway)