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Album review: Ryan Adams' 'Cardinology'

October 28, 2008 |  2:46 pm

Ryanadams Ryan Adams’ prodigious songwriting gift has yielded an ever-growing body of work that’s better viewed as a series of snapshots of his thoughts and feelings at a given moment than as definitive pronouncements on life as he sees it. On “Cardinology,” under his contract for the taste-making Lost Highway label, Adams and his band explore the many faces of loss — loss of love, of ideals, of life direction.

Despite his famously combative public persona, as an artist he often takes the high road, sending well wishes to those he’s left by the wayside (“Go Easy”), or more impressively, to those who’ve done the same to him. Humility hasn’t always been Adams’ strong suit, which makes it so touching when he connects with it in “Let Us Down Easy.”

The songs are built largely on a potent interplay of ringing electric and steel guitars over lock-tight bass and drums, echoing the classic rock of the Allman Brothers at times, Crazy Horse at others, with occasional swings into the pulsing modern rock of Coldplay story and U2. If that makes it sound like Adams and company aren’t pushing musical boundaries this time, it’s true, but they’ve settled into a groove that works just fine for now.

--Randy Lewis

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
Lost Highway
2 and a half stars