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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