December 4, 2008

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Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Cardinology
Lost Highway Records, Oct. 28

N.C.’s Ryan Adams isn’t so totally countrified anymore, or so some of his fans are griping, but he’s been a New Yorker for so long that it’d be pointless to keep up the charade. And remember that he was raised on Misfits and Ozzy, and that influence adds a certain heaviness to his stuff that makes it bigger than life, or at least quashes most of his urges to get all Conway Twitty for a few daddy-fearing music nerds. What helps to make him a star — and he is the new Neil Young — is an ability, or grace-of-God good luck, that appears genius-like in spots. Take for example the cannonball guitar bursts in “Magick,” its stoic dino-metal shtick stolen straight from the beginning of Bryan Adams’ “One Night Love Affair,” the joke/accident/genius here being the simple acknowledgment (or not) that he’s heard “You’re who? Bryan Adams?” about 400 billion times. “Born Into a Light” is poor-boy-rockmetal done the way Young did in his “Ohio” days, while “Go Easy” finds Adams sounding more like Young than ever, this in a song that’s got a lot in common with “After the Garden.” What makes him more dangerous is his natural ability/inclination to shape-shift for the modern age as he myna-birds Radiohead and Tom Petty, sometimes in the same song, with results good enough to be simultaneously mainstream and somewhat alien, a tough trick. AEWS