Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Album Review

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Cardinology

1. Born Into A Light
2. Go Easy
3. Fix It
4. Magick
5. Cobwebs
6. Let Us Down Easy
7. Crossed Out Name
8. Natural Ghost
9. Sink Ships
10. Evergreen
11. Like Yesterday
12. Stop

Someone once told me that, as a musician, for every ten songs you write, chances are that only one of those songs will be good. An artist's life involves a constant creation/translation of personal feelings and emotions, and sometimes, an occasional block of creativity.

Years ago, Ryan Adams was known for releasing every line of every song he was writing at the time. In return, he was receiving a lot of flack from music critic's across the country, who were basically saying that you shouldn't release every single thing you write, but rather, an artist should take their time to master one project.

With Cardinology, we see only the second full album from Ryan and company, in the past two years. These past couple years have been clean and sober for Adams, and as far as his music goes, his maturity and growth as a person and songwriter is quite clear, resulting in quite possibly some of his best work yet.

Obviously I don't know Ryan personally, but if I had to say so, I would say that the Ryan Adams of 2008 is a much different Adams, say of the year 2000, when he released his first album, Heartbreaker, after leaving former band, Whiskeytown.

Cardinology is the next phase in his life, a road that may have seem somewhat expected, as the follow up to the very successful Easy Tiger of 2007.

As I previously mentioned, about critic's giving Adams flack, some will tell you that even his worst material is better than a lot of the music that is currently out there.

Cardinology may not be classic, old school Ryan Adams, but what it is, is a defining growth in his songwriting and vocals. 2008 brings a new look into the new life of Ryan Adams. Of course, his songs wouldn't be complete if it wasn't for his stellar backing band, The Cardinals, who perform at their very best on both the album and in concert.

After listening to this album a few times, I quickly caught onto the new songs. On the first few tracks, you'll hear some similar sounding, fairly catchy songs, both in melody and lyrics. His first single, Fix It, is everything you could hope for in a single: there's a nice mix of both flat out rock, but at the same there is enough for this song to make it on pop radio.

While the album may continue on with a similar feeling/vibe, Magick is where the album starts to break away from the three previous tracks. It remains catchy, but at the same time, there is more harder rock in it, with the distorted chords of Ryan's guitar and even a little country sound in the steel lap.

Cobwebs has often been used as the opening song of the current tour, and I couldn't think of a better song to start the show off with. It's a song that is driven by the pounding of the drums, and for nearly the first minute, it's an instrumental jam that just seems to build up into another catchy pop song.

The album starts to take a slightly different turn with Let Us Down Easy. It doesn't really sound like any of the previous tracks, and so far it has the most of their country sounding songs. I even feel that it offers up some of Ryan's best vocals of the entire album.

We then see a return to the overall album vibe with Crossed Out Name, which I think is more catchy musically, rather than lyrically. Natural Ghost goes back to the country feeling that Let Us Down Easy has. Sink Ships continues on with the country feel, but has possibly the strongest bridge out of any of the songs.

Evergreen has probably done the least for me out of all of the songs on the album, but it's still good. It's not as catchy as everything else, but I like the 1970's singer/songwriter feeling it gives me.

You wouldn't think this, but the Grateful Dead have played a big influence in Ryan's life, and Like Yesterday shows that occasionally, Ryan's guitar playing sounds much like Jerry Garcia is up there playing.

A lot of albums today wouldn't be complete without the ballad. A Ryan Adams album wouldn't be complete without a song that sounds very much like Neil Young. The ballad usually falls near or at the very end of an album, and Stop would be the ballad of Cardinology. It appears to be a song not about love between two people like a lot of ballads, but rather, it may be about Ryan's past substance abuses and the realization he has come to end that period of his life.

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