After releasing one album per year since his 2000 solo debut, Heartbreaker, as well as two EPs in 2003, Ryan Adams—the Energizer Bunny of alt-country—didn't put out any new music in 2004. Lest you think the singer-songwriter was suffering from an unusual case of writer's block, Adams is returning to his Prince-like prolificness this year with three (!) separate releases, the first of which is this double disc. And while some judicious editing could have made for a stronger single CD, Cold Roses finds Adams in near full bloom. Working in a band setting for the first time since he split with Whiskeytown in 1999, Adams returns to the rootsy territory of 2001's glittering Gold after the amped-up assault of his last full-lengther, 2003's Rock N Roll. The collaborative writing and recording process with his new quartet (plus singer-pianist Rachael Yamagata on three tracks) results in a more relaxed, upbeat tone. In fact, the usually ornery Adams seems to be cracking a smile on breezy country-rockers like "Dance All Night" and the first single "Let It Ride," on which he sings of exorcising his demons: "Let it ride/Let it take away all of this darkness." Not that Adams has completely gone over to the light side. Over the soothing strum and twang of "Sweet Illusions," he tenderly croons about "lonely nights multiplied by the blues that I can't resolve." On the achingly beautiful ballad "How Do You Keep Love Alive," he wonders, "What does it mean to be so sad/When someone you love/ Someone you love is supposed to make you happy." But Adams without a little misery would be like roses without thorns.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "How Do You Keep Love Alive"