Ryan Adams was on quite a roll in 2005. He released brilliant two albums (Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights) and one was pretty good one (29). Always one to confound expectations, Ryan went even further and made Cold Roses a double-album.
Coming off the heels of the sullen and mopey Love is Hell and the rocking (but record company demanded) Rock N’ Roll, the 2005 albums find Adams at a creative peak that many artists could only aspire to have. Each individual album is rooted in the Alt-Country that Adams is known for, but with a distinct flavor. Jacksonville City Nights is the late-night, roots album: the one where you down a bottle whiskey to mend a broken heart. 29 is the introspective album. And Cold Roses – the best of the lot – is the one where Adams channels both the Working Man’s Dead-era Grateful Dead and the ghost of Gram Parsons.
Needless to say, it’s a lot to take in (but that’s pretty par for the course with Adams). The highlight of Cold Roses, is the swinging lap-steel driven “Let It Ride”. Adams’ backing band at the time, the Cardinals provide him with a backdrop that lies somewhere between uplifting and melancholy. The song feels like that moment in the night when dawn is right around the corner, but the events of the night are still fresh in your mouth.
Adams’ drunken-fool narrator, desperately trying to make sense of his mistakes without quite owning up to them, suits this musical landscape perfectly. “I was at the bar til three. Oh lord, I wasn’t ready to go,” He laments. Later, when trying to woo a girl, he realizes that he still has his car keys, but can’t find his car. “Let it it ride,” He sings at the end of the song. “Let it rock me in the arms of stranger’s angels until it brings me home.”
Adams would never quite be this prolific again, and it’s not surprising. Though he did release a set of out-takes from this era entitled III/IV which is a kind of a cross between Cold Roses and Rock N’ Roll, which is definitely worth checking out.