I thought Ryan Adams would be like Bryan Adams. Yes, groan. But he's not. He's much sweeter and does not have pockmarked skin. What's more, I don't know anything about the bloke but I would gladly marry him and his band after hearing this (at least, the first CD of this new double album; I don't really think it needed the second). Because he sounds like a character, perhaps someone you would happily share a bottle of red or two with and rely on to sing your troubles away; in fact, you might call this the gay boyfriend of records to end all records, with a sigh and a touch of sensitivity in all the appropriate places, for those as soppy and lost as myself, alongside the smouldering sparkle which puts the world to rights (except without the cheesy disco beat and arseless pants and more of a Bruce Springsteen type growl in places).

Or to be clear for those of you who have never had the pleasure of being a fag hag, "Cold Roses" is somewhere between proper grown-up music, boasting experience but not actually having sex anymore, and the sort of reckless slacker music that I can only describe as being reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins "1979" video (you remember the one, where the kids are all free, driving in their car and snogging in the shower), what happens when you put the multi-faceted human relationship on record: sad, lonely and regretful one minute, not to mention totally emotionally suffocating, hot, sweaty and thrilling the next. From opening track and album highlight, "Magnolia Mountain", with its slide-guitar gorgeousness, bluesy twanging and whimsical vocals, to the dreamy "When will you come back home" and the gritty jumping jacks of songs like "Beautiful sorta" and "Cherry Lane", this could actually well be the first time that something remotely country could at all be sexy. And so definitely worthy of a romp in the hay.

TOM McRAE- All Maps Welcome

My Mum nearly died the other day. And it's events like that that really make you think about life, the people around you and just how and if you relate to them. Now, I had listened to this CD a few times nonchalantly before but then I have been very busy of late. However, it is now crystal clear why music like this exists. Because, from opening track "For the restless", I was extremely touched. Which takes a lot these days. Full of humanity and incredibly comforting, after pinching some of Beck's band members and carrying out the recording process in poncy LA, and in a haunted stable block no less, you could be forgiven for thinking this is all getting rather pretentious, but the relief is that this is definitely still very much Tom McRae; I'm sure you are all familiar with his take on acoustic heaven- sweet and soothing and fairly sad. That would be the cello then. Hailed as his most personal album to date, this collection of oddball love songs, featuring the beautiful "The girl who fell downstairs" and "Packing for the crash" to name a few, has tones of James Iha and early Tori Amos (who he's just been on tour with). And nothing more has to be said but that this record is melodic, uplifting and totally life affirming. Apart from, if it was a saying, it would be "softly, softly, catchy monkey".

Anna C.

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