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Ryan Adams announced a hiatus from music in 2009 after suffering from Ménière's disease, an inner-ear disorder that causes vertigo and progressive hearing loss, but the North Carolina alt-country staple never really left. Through various monikers and channels, Adams released rations of black metal and hard rock, giving select performances throughout 2009 and 2010. He has now returned to form with Ashes & Fire, an album that'll feel familiar to fans of his work with his former band, The Cardinals.
Adams' wheelhouse is country music, and he plays from a position of power on Ashes & Fire. Songs like the title track and "Dirty Rain" show the soulful country influence of former tourmate Emmylou Harris, while the delicate folk of "Rocks" recalls the bedroom from which he's been known to work. Subdued and low-key, Ashes & Fire sounds like the work of a man who's benefited from taking some time to figure it all out.