CD review by Adam Kandle: "Cardinalogy" by Ryan Adams
November 7, 2008
Ryan Adams, prolific singer-songwriter and soon-to-be-published novelist, just can’t seem to stop releasing albums. His latest “Cardinalogy,” with band The Cardinals, is his 11th in eight years and third with the aforementioned band.
On the heels of the band’s critically acclaimed “Easy Tiger” and relentless touring, Adams and band mates have managed to make an album that is perhaps the most natural sounding of his career.
“Born Into A Light,” the album’s first track, is full of imagery that seems to speak to Adams’ recent sobriety and the idea of birth or, in his case, rebirth as a cause for hope.
While the album’s themes of love, loss and redemption will not be new to listeners of the singer, the relative starkness of lyrics compared to his usual confessional style will come as quite a surprise.
Adams had described the album as a “crooner album” in interviews while he was recording it and at times you hear it in songs like “Let Us Down Easy” and “Like Yesterday.” In contrast to previous outings by Adams and The Cardinals,
“Cardinalogy” truly feels like a collaborative effort. Adams is confident in allowing the band to create a tapestry where his lyrics need only to add light brush strokes and not tell the entire story. Within this framework, Adams sounds liberated, able to use his voice as an instrument that at times can say more than the written word.
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For perhaps the first time, Adams has made an album that evokes memories of some of his musical heroes (Gram Parsons and The Grateful Dead) without sounding as though he’s trying to do so. Like his heroes, Adams created a sense of intimacy on “Cardinalogy,” more so than on his debut “Heartbreaker,” a template for the confessional singer-songwriter genre if there ever was one.
The difference? Adams has the support of The Cardinals to guide him away from his own personal abysses and give him the freedom to in essence be “born into a light.”