“her eyes were indigo and the cats were all Calico and the sail boats they all sailed by… and a river she cried.” –Ryan Adams in Ashes and Fire

I’ve loved this song for a long time but hadn’t figured out how I wanted to change my writing style. The result is this belated post.

The thing that I really like about it is this theme of blue but he never uses the word “blue.” Okay–he uses “indigo” once I think. The most obvious “uses” of the color are in the chorus when he mentions her “cool and silvery eyes” and the “river of tears” where her heart drowned. The line about “sail boats” implies water in it so that can also be blue especially since the sailing boats may represent missed opportunities. The story itself is blue–it’s a sad song about a woman who was left behind by her lover and what could have been.

However, blue isn’t the only color in the song. We also get her “calico cats.” I could be reading too much into it but I think it’s apt that the cats are calico since they are the color of “ashes and fire.” The theme of blue is actually made more complex with his constant reference to “ashes and fire.” By complex, I don’t mean that they contrast with the blue. On the surface-level, it may seem to constrast with the blue but I think it actually adds to the blue because the ashes and fire represent their burnt out love (dead and blue).

Lyrics | Ashes & Fire MP3 | Ashes & Fire Album MP3

Maybe the fire is still there though…which is why the fire is at the end of the chorus. She may have been left behind but the woman in the piece may not be over him yet. The fire could represent anger from not having let go (think Ms. Haversham from Great Expectations). I think this is another chance for the “river” to come into the conversation again. I think the river is used ironically. Water is often used to represent life and rivers are flowing…here we see it used both as time moving and in another sense, time is still. The woman in the piece is stuck in this image of a river made of her own tears. Ryan, how cruel of you.

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