Ryan Adams back on song

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RYAN ADAMS’ latest album, Ashes & Fire, offers a timely distillation of his song-writing pedigree, as those with tickets for his Festival Theatre gig on Sunday will discover.

That pedigree is something that seems to have been relegated to a sideshow amongst the circus of controversies surrounding his personal life and career in recent years, some of which appeared to be self-inflicted, others little more than media-generated mischief.

The North Carolina singer-songwriter’s eighth album is stripped of the garage rock heft of his time with The Cardinals, favouring the empty whisky glass ballads and bar stool chords of some of his most memorable material.

Notably, Ashes & Fire arrives after a near-two year hiatus from music, most of which was spent coming to terms with a degenerative inner ear condition called Meniere’s Disease, which affects balance and depth perception. Not that it tells. Dressed with swirling organs, grainy violins and Adams’ reliable knack for a subtle lyric, Ashes & Fire’s acoustic arrangements are as taught and flab-free as you’d come to expect.

It’s a melancholy and emotive record that seldom comes across as insincere, largely because it refrains from delving into “woes-me” self-pity and self-destructive habits that Adams displayed so publicly in several catastrophic mid-noughties interviews - in one such interview, a journalist is moved to describe him as a “petulant child”.

Married to fellow singer-songwriter Mandy Moore and now a father, Adams has long since learned to hold himself with a maturity that befits his near 37 years of age.

If his discography offers any sort of a document as to his state of mind, it seems that Ashes & Fire finds the former enfant terrible in a far better place.

Ryan Adams, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Sunday, 7.30pm, £25-27.50, 0131 529 6000