In an age where cockiness seems to be the deadliest sin for a rock performer, Ryan Adams takes great joy in boasting of his titanic talent -- a habit that might be annoying if he didn't also follow the path of Muhammad Ali, who once noted, "It ain't bragging if you can back it up." This two-disc set -- the first of three planned 2005 releases -- readily affirms the singer-songwriter's high self-esteem, seeing how much he stretches his stylistic wings. In contrast to his previous album, an electrically charged homage to Rock N Roll, Cold Roses,
could be dubbed Adams's "hippie" album, rife as it is with languid melodies, loping guitar lines, and mellowed-out delivery. The latter element is most surprising, particularly the ethereal, Grateful Dead
styled amble Adams adopts for "Easy Plateau" and the loping folkiness that drapes "Sweet Illusions," a nod to Harvest
-era Neil Young
. Even the country-tinged offerings -- which Adams embraces more lovingly here than he has in years -- seem more suited for a quiet cabin in the woods than a rowdy roadhouse, especially "Let It Ride," one of three songs to feature the vocals of Rachael Yamagata
. The album isn't strictly given over to summer-of-love sweetness, of course -- Adams is too surly to let that happen -- and rockers like the ragged-but-right love paean "Beautiful Sorta" caffeinate the proceedings often enough to prove that. Cold Roses,
however, isn't about working up a sweat, it's about self-assessment -- a look in the mirror in the cold light of day. And fittingly for a restless rocker, Adams uses these songs to admit that he doesn't always like what he sees.