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Rock

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

November 10, 2008
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Cardinology

Lost Highway

ESSENTIAL "Stop"

The already prolific and intermittently brilliant Adams hit a creative peak with 2007's emotionally and musically nuanced "Easy Tiger." Shockingly for the music maverick, "Cardinology" follows a similar template as Adams gets even more comfy as the leader of his merry band. The group has become so keenly attuned to their leader's personal shifts that it's easy to understand why he wanted to include the band name on the cover. (It's like he's doing a reverse Diana Ross; soon it will just be the Cardinals). The bulk of the album is made up of ambling, country-tinged rock - Adams's strongest suit. That means harmony-rich choruses; textured layers of pedal steel, guitar, and tambourine; and smarter-than-average tales of tough love. The busted love lament "Fix It" especially taps into Adams's strengths as a translator of heartache and transformer of his influences, in this case Neil Young. He also throws in a little anthemic rock ("Cobwebs") and catchy, foot-stomping radio bait ("Magick") to mix up the moods. If only a few of the tracks rise to the greatest heights of which Adams is capable - like the poignant closing salute to sobriety, "Stop" - the rest remain impressive pictures of craftsmanship. (Out now) SARAH RODMAN

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