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Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cardinology
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cardinology
CD Review by Jud Conway on 11/4/2008   

Jacksonville, NC, singer/songwriter Ryan Adams has courted controversy ever since founding the volatile seminal alt-country band Whiskeytown, in 1994. While that bandís albums were greeted with resounding critical acclaim, their lineup was famously unstable and their concerts hit-or-miss affairs. Nonetheless, Adams gained national recognition as a promising young talent, embarking on a tremendously prolific, much publicized, genre-bending solo career, beginning with 2000ís Heartbreaker.

Often referred to as his "sober and clean" period, Ryan Adamís has produced some of his most mature and consistent, if not his most ambitious, material during the past two years. Cardinology is credited to Adams and his backing band the Cardinals (guitarist Neal Casal, bassist Chris Feinstein, drummer Brad Pemberton, and pedal steel player Jon Graboff). Depending upon how one chooses to classify Adamís post-Whiskeytown output, Cardinology is either his fourth Cardinals release or eleventh "solo" release, counting 2007ís Follow the Lights EP. Stylistically, the majority of Cardinologyís twelve songs are in the same laid back country-rock vein that dominated 2007ís Easy Tiger and Follow the Lights.

Cardinologyís lead-off single, "Fix It," has a definite Rolling Stones vibe, sounding like it would fit comfortably on a Some Girls session reel. "Magick," perhaps Cardinologyís most upbeat track, possesses a playful Buzzcocks-infused punkishness. "Born Into Light," Cardinologyís catchy but all-too-brief opener, shares a Mexicali musical bond with "The Sadness," an epic cut featured on 29, Adamís third full-length release of 2005. Midtempo numbers like "Evergreen" and "Let Us Down Easy" increasingly render their subtle charms with subsequent play. Add "Natural Ghost" to the growing list of Ryanís songs influenced by his affinity for the Grateful Dead; an admiration which is mutual, as Phil Lesh has been known to perform several of Ryanís songs in his own live shows. A 2006 posting quotes Lesh as stating that, "Jerry [Garcia] would have loved Ryan and his fearless interpretations of his songs," and that he "Öfeel[s] Jerry close to [him] whenever [he is] around Ryan."

As a whole, Cardinology is a solid, commercially palpable offering from one of todayís most versatile singer/songwriters. Perhaps, this is the recordís only inherent flaw; too few highs or lows. While established fans and casual newcomers alike will find something to love about Cardinology, diehards, long-accustomed to Adamsí prolific nature, will anxiously await his next release. In the interim, Adamís first book, Infinity Blues, is slated for publication on March 16, 2009.

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