Music Review: Ryan Adams’ understated new disc

Ryan Adams, “Ashes & Fire” (Pax Americana/Capitol)

I have to confess to falling asleep during a first listen to this album. When the music woke me, I thought, “this is interesting” ... only to find the carriage had advanced to the new Wilco CD.

Not a good sign. And later eyes-wide-open evaluations didn’t improve things much.

We’ve always had a soft spot for the absurdly prolific, if sometimes unfocused, Adams. He’s done some of his finest work in recent years with his band the Cardinals. Here the band is ditched in favor of a mellow combo that includes Norah Jones on piano and Heartbreaker Benmont Tench on keyboards.

It’s a slog, with songs the same slow tempo and Adams’ voice often hushed. The songs are slight, feeling more like exercises than passion plays. Adams employs veteran Glyn Johns as producer, who should have suggested his client keep writing.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: The title “I Love You But I Don’t Know What to Say” sounds like an unintentional straight line. But Adams does know what to say: “When I met you, clouds inside me parted and all that light came shining through.” Sweet.

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