Ryan Adams is only 33 years old, but his artistic output has been as prolific anyone 20 or 30 years older. Whether his songs are released in official or unofficial (Pinkhearts, Sad Dracula, Werewolph) form, the large majority of his songs have a degree of listenability (real word?) that would make regular pop wannabes jealous. He started out with Whiskeytown, whose major label classic Stranger's Almanac remains a template for alt-country to this day, and from around 1999 onwards started his solo career, before releasing Cold Roses with The Cardinals in 2005.
His post-Whiskeytown work has been pretty consistent, in the sense that he's retained a lot of the down South vibe in his songs. There's a lot of the steel pedal, slide guitars, capos, which have become his trademarks in most of his songs. He had a brief slide out of that formula with Rock N Roll in 2003, which, while not my favorite Ryan Adams album (that honor still goes to Gold, which is another essential classic), is still pretty great. In 2007 he released Easy Tiger and Follow The Lights (both recorded with the Cards), which showcased more mellow, laid back songwriting, more introspective. Which may have reflected changes in his own life, having quit drinking and hard drugs.
This year, he's reunited with The Cardinals on the new album, Cardinology. This album is excellent. The guys have really gelled as a band, and their playing suits Ryan Adam's current singing style, which has really matured since his more demure Whiskeytown days. Everything that has made his albums awesome, from the bordering on blastoff riffs, to the slide guitars, to the prerequisite usage of capos, is present. His harder songs have an edge, and his softer songs captivate just as easily. Best of all, all these songs sound great, on record or live. So here's some songs off Cardinology:
Sink Ships (live)
Crossed Out Name
and its live version:
Natural Ghost (live)
and the lead single, Fix It: