Friday, October 3, 2008

Ryan Adams - Cardinology

The new album by Ryan Adams is his most mature and restrained album to date. It is also his most lyrically ambitious. Take a song like “Cobwebs,” where it easy to mistake him for Jeff Buckley as he lets his voice swoop like never before bringing to life his metaphors and imagery. Or the following song, “Let Us Down Easy” which shows a lyrical sophistication that is unlike anything he’s done. It is reminiscent of Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. There was a poetic clearheadedness about it that seemed to signal the beginning of a new era of songwriting for the artist. It did nothing to diminish the accomplishments of the past, or really to foretell the future, but it added another layer of complexity and value to his body of work. Adams’ resume is already pretty damned impressive, and anyone who dips into the unofficial world of his music quickly realizes that the albums are just the tip of the iceberg. He has to be one of the most prolific modern songwriters and miraculously little of it is crap. Listen to the beautiful ballad “Evergreen” and marvel at the fact that this is the same guy who produced punk albums, heavy metal manifestos, suicide anthems, Grateful Dead-inspired country rock and stabs at every other type of music imaginable. Now he seems content with an album of expertly crafted songs, played with great authority by his superb band the Cardinals. Through their non-stop touring and recording this band now plays with the sympathetic ears of a real band - not just a backing group. Perhaps that’s the secret to the title of the album. Ryan Adams has finally gotten himself into a place of health and productivity in an environment that allows him to realize his musical vision, whatever it is today. He has moved from death-wish prodigy to seasoned poet. Lucky for us.

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