Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: Follow The Lights

By: Dennis Cook

In many ways, this EP is a better showcase for the empathetic, almost subliminal communication between Ryan Adams and his band, The Cardinals, than celebrated 2007 full-length Easy Tiger. These seven cuts show the thoughtful restraint and tasteful instincts of The Band's "Tears of Rage" or Allen Toussaint's "From A Whisper To A Scream." Adams' compositions increasingly swing through wider swatches of the American Musical Spectrum but do so with quieter steps that draw less attention to the genre blending. Follow The Lights (Lost Highway) draws from melancholy country, incandescent soft pop, noise rock and more. Taken together, it is their own seamless mixture. This is a band serving the material with great dedication, skill and care, and the results are pretty compelling.

It's wonderful to finally have a Cardinals studio rendition (it appears on the Adams-produced, Cardinals backed Willie Nelson album, Songbird) of live staple "Blue Hotel," which contains some of Adams' most striking verses in recent years:

Something about her that's cold
She's blowing through the trees
Leaving me raw
The words come out and I get confused
I get shattered like a light bulb in an October moon
She's inside me like a secret and I got no one to tell
Wandering like a fool through the halls of a blue hotel

New ones "My Love For You Is Real" and "Follow The Lights" offer more of the dented hope and light that's been creeping into Adams' recent work. Their take on Alice In Chains' "Down In The Hole" lays claim to the song in a way that almost makes you forget about the original. More plaintive and less overwrought, it generates strong empathy with the song's buried-in-the-earth mood. The Cardinals' versions of "This Is It," "If I Am A Stranger" and "Dear John" show that Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Brad Pemberton (drums, percussion), Jon Graboff (pedal steel, vocals), Chris Feinstein (bass) and Jamie Candiloro (keyboards) are the band he's always needed - an inspired, humble group of collaborators that accentuate all Adams' strengths and are fast erasing his weaknesses.

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[Published on: 1/16/08]

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cliffcliffordjr Wed 1/16/2008 10:09AM
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Right on DC, didn't even know this was due ... When will it be released? Anyone? I want to buy a copy. Nice review as always DC. Peace.

snappy Wed 1/16/2008 10:38AM
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It's been out for a while now. Just took a while to sink into my bloodstream...

jackiesoup starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/16/2008 10:49AM
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Nice review of another wonderful Ryan Album.

scratchitti Wed 1/16/2008 11:18AM
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I think the Cardinals' version of "This Is It" is perhaps their best studio track.

MaseBase starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/16/2008 11:35AM
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I love this disc. Ryan Adams is unbelievably prolific and I can't wait to see him and the Cardinals in Berkeley

moemoe6434 starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/16/2008 11:43AM
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This already one of my favorite EPs of all time. Their "Down In A Hole" is worth the price of the cd alone.

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/16/2008 12:17PM
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Good Shit!

jrtaner starstarstar Wed 1/16/2008 02:53PM
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Tonight Ryan is playing at Cain's Ballroom, home of Bob Wills, a great venue for him. Watch out for a surprise guest of Emmylou Harris and a heavy steel set. To the crowd, be a good audience and give him the good ole Tulsa stomp for me. Wish Ryan would come to Ithaca but I will be smiling thinking of this show im my old home place and stomping grounds.

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/17/2008 03:51AM
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Brilliant! Down in a hole would make Layne Staley proud!

ndant703 Thu 1/17/2008 06:51AM
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Long time RA fan, I haven't heard this album yet, but will soon. I do think that the last couple of years RA has came out with too many albums, most of which contain only a few songs I dig and others I skip over. Anyone else agree? Oh well, it's still good music...can't wait to hear this stuff.

Matis starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/17/2008 12:29PM
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our own personal dylan, i love this kid

breadloaf Wed 1/23/2008 08:36AM
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^^^Me, too. Damn, this kid can write a hell of a song.

acomma Wed 1/23/2008 10:00AM
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I must check out the "Down in a Hole." RIP Layne, what a great singer.