While undoubtedly prolific, Ryan Adams has led a career hindered by inconsistency. Personally, he has battled drug addiction, and even in sobriety, has struggled to keep his emotions from seeping into his trigger-finger blog entries that often disappear as quickly as they hit the web. Musically, he has been an album-releasing machine, but even at his most productive – a three-release year in 2005 – the many hits were countered by just as many misses.
After a critically acclaimed 2007 that boasted the release of the impenetrable Easy Tiger and the savory Follow the Lights EP, Adams and his band, The Cardinals, have returned with Cardinology, a follow-up that skims just below the organic highs of last year’s work. Even at Cardinology’s weakest, Adams and company are able to pull sonic punches that are far and byond most of their veteran contemporaries “Fix It” surges with controlled bombast, and “Cobwebs” is woven together with spindly guitars and swelling pedal steel. But it’s the punch-drunk “Magick” that dims the glow of Cardinology, using riffs and lyricism that pale in the context of the Ryan Adams canon.
Few artists have recorded such a wealth of material at such a young age, and even those who have can’t match the acclaim earned by Ryan Adams and his work. Cardinology fits snugly into this legacy; one that boasts swelling heights and sinking lows. But at the rate the Cardinals are finding stability, Adams’ true potential is finally coming into clear – and consistent – view.
Cardinology is out now on Lost Highway Records.