Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

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Ryan Adams / Photo by Neal Casal
WRITTEN BY
Melissa Goldstein

What? Famously prolific singer-songwriter Ryan Adams has dabbled in everything from '80s arena rock to hip-hop, but he consistently returns to his alt-country roots. Having weathered personal storms -- from high profile relationships (Winona Ryder, Parker Posey) to high profile feuds (Jack White, Courtney Love), to overt drug use -- Adams' new album Cardinology (Lost Highway) makes a case that his turn to drug-free living has given way to a cleaner, more-focused approach.

On his first release in a year (noteworthy for someone who put out three albums in 2005), the artist offers a well-edited sampling that provides power ballads (see "Go Easy") and straight-forward country ("Natural Ghost"), while being held together by a classic rock thread that runs throughout.

Who? Born in Jacksonville, NC, in 1974, Adams began writing songs at the age of 15 and launched his musical career in an art punk band called the Patty Duke Syndrome. But his alt-country leanings eventually took hold and he left to form Whiskeytown, an outfit that would be cited by critics as the flag bearer for the No Depression scene. When that proved a false alarm, Adams christened a solo career with 2000's Nashville-recorded album Heartbreaker, followed by 2001's rock-leaning, Gold, whose track "New York, New York" harnessed the zeitgeist of post-9/11 radio and provided a mainstream breakout. Six official album releases followed (not counting scores of albums released via his website), including 2007's SPIN-approved Easy Tiger.

Fun Fact: Adams shares his November 5 birthday with both Gram Parsons, one of his major influences, and his near-name doppelganger Bryan Adams.

Listen: Click here for a full album stream of Cardinology on Facebook.

Watch: Ryan Adams, "Fix It" live


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