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Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Cardinology – 2009 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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The follow-up to 2007's "Easy Tiger" sees Adams and his stellar alt.-country crew picking up where they left off. From the opening notes of the warm, roots-y Born Into A Light, Adams and guitarist Neal Casal work off each other perfect while Jon Graboff adds some sweet pedal steel accents. Meanwhile, songs such as So Easy have a tad more bite to them, but Adams' knack for wearing his heart on his sleeve has never been better.

Following a soulful, Ron Sexsmith-leaning Fix It, the band offer up a cocksure, swagger rock nugget entitled Magick, which is as close to the perfect adjective as you could find. Yet it's those little gems along the dozen tracks which make this record so cohesive, whether the rather pedestrian Americana of Let Us Down Easy with its somewhat spiritual side.

While some fans might say it's the same path he's traveled before, they would be correct. But listening to this album, what is wrong with that? The airy, at times heady Natural Ghost is both soothing and haunting but Like Yesterday seems to be a tad ordinary throughout most of it.

The real gem though is the closing keeper Stop, the sort of terribly tender, melancholic tune Adams delivers every album that the listener doesn't really want to see finish.