Follow Us on Twitter

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Cardinology

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

PROLIFIC singer-songwriter Ryan Adams returns with quite possibly his best album to date in the form of Cardinology.

Having put his personal problems behind him and focused on just the one LP this year (he put out three in 12 months not to long ago), Adams and his band The Cardinals have delivered a vibrant collection of songs that show a great consistency and a more straight-forwardly rockin’ sensibility.

The first four songs, in particular, are belters. Born Into Light balances rock with country and trades gospel tendencies with a Gram Parsons sensibility. It’s a fine start that just gets better with the Eagles-esque Go Easy, a more stripped back mid-tempo rocker that drips with emotion (“I love you still and I always will”), and then the R&B soaked Fix It, which even dares to blossom into the type of stadium-filling chorus that U2’s Bono would be proud to call his own.

And then comes Magick, a free-wheeling slice of garage rock that should easily appeal to the classic rock fans among you, as well as those who’ve come up on the likes of The White Stripes. It’s a gritty, no-frills slice of songwriting that genuinely exhilarates.

Cobwebs marks the moment when the album takes its foot off the pedal slightly, but remains a tight slice of rock ‘n’ roll that also boasts one of the best choruses on the LP (and another that seems to be taking its cues from the U2 style of epic songwriting). Adams’ vocals are terrific, even dropping in the odd falsetto high late on.

Let Us Down Easy is one of the few disappointments – a more country offering that comes over all preachy (“let us down easy Lord”) and finds Adams in more strained territory vocally. It lacks the zip of its predecessors and is more reminiscent of some of the darker, more brooding material on his earlier albums.

It’s a glitch, however, as Crossed Out Name restores the quality with another slice of classic Americana storytelling, and Natural Ghost broods magnificently as only Adams and his Cardinals knows how. If the verses are haunting, the chorus unfolds into something unashamedly romantic.

Thereafter, the album continues to satisfy even if it’s a little more content to veer towards country-rock (on songs such as Sink Ships and the tender Evergreen, which almost sounds like Turin Brakes in places!

Album closer Stop, meanwhile, brings things to a genuinely poignant finale, swapping the guitar licks that have featured so prominently, for some melancholy piano and a haunted, heartfelt Adams vocal. It’s far removed from the feel-good elements that marked the start of the long-player, but it somehow seems apt… and virtually guarantees that you’ll want to hear the album all over again.

Download picks: Born Into A Light, Go Easy, Magick, Cobwebs, Stop, Fix It

Track listing:

  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
  13. Memory Lane