Ryan Adams & the Cardinals Cardinology

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals Cardinology
While the title may suggest that this latest release from the prodigious Adams and his full-time band is some kind of retrospective, Cardinology is in fact a return to the mellow rock that marked the Cardinals' first appearance on 2005's Cold Roses. It's a little surprising, since Adams seemed to make a minor breakthrough with his last full-length effort, Easy Tiger, a well-balanced and concise collection that showed him at the top of his songwriting game. Although Cardinology does have its moments, like the effervescent "Fix It" and "Natural Ghost," and hardcore Adams fans have come to treasure them, too much of the album meanders, making Adams sound, unfortunately, as if he's on autopilot. Of course, the same was said of Cold Roses upon its release but for all of its obvious nods to the Grateful Dead it did contain a few memorable hooks that saved it from being a completely self-indulgent exercise. At this point, Adams has shown enough range that unfortunately he's now judged against his catalogue. And despite the songwriting on Cardinology outclassing the vast majority of work by other singer-songwriters, after repeated listens there's nothing on it that stands alongside his best work. (Lost Highway)