Thursday, December 03, 2009

Ryan Adams' Cardinology

About a year ago I eagerly snatched up Ryan Adams and the Cardinals' latest album, Cardinology---and then hardly listened to it. It wasn't bad, it didn't disappoint, it just didn't do anything special for me.

But the other day it made it back on to my nano and, hot dang, what an album! It has a gospel-album feel (except heavier on the lament), and as the title might suggest, has a lyrical life-reflectiveness about it.

A couple of the songs on this album are, to my ears, dull. "Magick" is one of them. But on the other hand it has a few that are downright pleasant, and the guitar work is just splendid. "Born into a Light" is a great start, "Fix it" is classic Adams (see it on Letterman), and "Let Us Down Easy" is frankly just gorgeous. We just sat and listened to it in silence twice in a row the other night and in trying to describe the song after I used the adjective "beautiful" a few more times than can retain any suitable meaning.

At the moment I'm not really interested in picking this album apart for its implicit "ology", put-on or otherwise, but I do enjoy having lyrics that pluck at the mind-strings here, express my heart there; question my premises here, and beg questions in return there. Without laying out for you which is which, here are some of the lines really ringing around in my cranium these days, from this own song especially:

From "Let Us Down Easy":

In all my life, Mercy
hasn't known my name this well
Like how every sea
filters out and leads us gently to a creek we sit around
Some of us are strong
but the rest of us are weak

So let us down
if you must
But let us down easy
Lord . . . .

So pray'n at night I tell God these jokes
He must be tired of Himself so much
He must be more than disappointed
Christmas comes we eat alone . . .

Let her down,
but if you must
Let us down easy
Lord . . . .

Not sure exactly what he means by that, but I just think of the many ways I'm brought to the end of myself, even in the things I think I'm doing completely for God, and I note God's "pastoral" way of confronting me---sometimes heavily and obviously; sometimes subtly, as if I discovered it on my own---and it all has a melancholy but at base hopeful and uplifting bitter-sweetness to it. As does this song.


Jon Coutts said...

Favourite Ryan Adams songs anyone?

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

It's a tie between the entire Heartbreaker album, and the song 'Two.'

I've been consistently enjoying Ryan Adams less and less over the past few albums, but now I guess I'll have to revisit Cardinology.

Anonymous said...

Ryan Adams favorites is a tough subject to come to a conclusion on. So here's mine without over-thinking it.
1) Come Pick Me Up (Yeah, I know... but I'm a sucker for the harmonica)
2) Dear Anne (an unreleased song off the "Swedish Sessions" - written about Anne Frank - let me know if you haven't heard it and I'll find a way to upload it to you)
3) La Cienega Just Smiled

1) Heartbreaker
2) Pneumonia (with Whiskeytown)
3) Jacksonville City Nights
I love RA when he's in his alt-country moods

Also, why the change of pictures? I liked the breakfast one.

Jon Coutts said...

You noticed that? I was just looking for one that fit more with the particular mood. That breakfast picture us awesome though.

Suddenly I feel like we've done this before, cuz I knew you loved LaCienega Just Smiled, Jon.

I won't promise Cardinology will recapture you, Matt, but it has me. Mind you, I wasn't tired of the old stuff. Matter of fact, from both of your song/album lists I see I still have plenty to discover! (No I haven't heard Anne, Jon)

I think I've always loved part two of Love is Hell, La Cienega, Rescue Blues, Shadowlands, and Sweet Carolina the most. But there are so many.

nathan davies said...

this has nothing to do with your post. 6/10 for manhattan? i mean this in the nicest way...are you an idiot?

Anonymous said...

My favourite Ryan Adams Songs are:

My Winding Wheel, Call Me On Your Way Back Home
and Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.
and Evergreen.

I love the follow the lights dvd.

Jon Coutts said...

Forrest: Evergreen, eh? Cool. I love Call Me On Your Way Back Home too.

Nathan: I don't know. The dialogue was snappy, and I love it when the city is one of the characters of the film, but it did nothing for me. I wish I could put a finger on what it was because I might say the subject matter but there'd be other films (such as Crimes and Misdemeanors) which explore stuff I find disturbing and yet I just love and appreciate the film. But in this case I just didn't enjoy or appreciate it all that much, aside from the things above.

Something about it made the characters seem to me pretentious rather than fascinating (i.e. Annie Hall) and the plot frustrating rather than powerful (i.e. Crimes..).

Admittedly, it could have been the day. Or that I'm an idiot. That is always a slim outside possibility.

Please notice I said "eh" above, Nathan. I am trying hard to avoid receiving a punch in the neck from you in the future.

nathan davies said...

i appreciate you keeping your canadianness, because i would hate to have to punch you in the neck. it would hurt me...right here(i'm pointing at my heart)
ps - i am sorry about manhattan. i absolutely love that movie. but everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it is way wrong.