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Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Jacksonville City Nights

Melodious Melancholy - Released on Lost Highway records, 9/27

In the second of his troika of albums to be released in 2005, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals plumb the depths of melancholy, regret, and wistfulness in <i>Jacksonville City Nights</i>. Being blue has never sounded quite so good.

<i>Jacksonville City Nights</i> grabs you right away with "A Kiss Before I Go", a whiskey infused musing laced with regret. The beautiful pain continues for the duration of the album (14 tracks). From a love lost to infidelity to an insatiable longing for peace, Adams covers just about every reason for throwing a few back. If there was ever an album to drown your sorrows to, <i>Jacksonville City Nights</i> is the one.

Complementing Adams mournful lyricism are hauntingly well-constructed melodies that linger long after the song has faded away. Adams and the Cardinals marry piano, pedal steel, acoustic guitar, and violins to beautiful effect. The track that best exemplifies the excellent marrying of lyricism and melody is the up tempo "Trains". Striking guitar riffs evoke a slow, powerful locomotive burning miles of track as Adams reflects on his unquiet state of mind.

There really isn't a dud in the bunch, and <i>Jacksonville City Nights</i> has a handful of tracks that will likely get stuck on repeat. The aforementioned "Trains" is one. "The Hardest Part" has a similarly listenable melody and evocative lyrics reflecting on the infinitely mystifying nature of love. Another standout is the powerfully poignant, "Pa" which tells the tale of a grieving husband who soon follows his recently departed wife to the grave.

Adams first 2005 release, <i>Cold Roses</i>, received rave reviews and while quantity does not necessarily connote quality, Adams bucks conventional wisdom with the release of <i>Jacksonville City Nights</i>. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals have assembled a beautiful album that eloquently combines country, blues, and folk (among other flavors). <i>Jacksonville City Nights</i> is one of the most complete albums of the year and it's hard to imagine Adams will be able to trump this one with his third release in December.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars