Taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

Jerry Chapman — Sweet Impossible It’s been four solo studio releases and Jerry Chapman ( has settled into quite a songwriting groove. While he seems comfortable keeping his focus on relationships, the bar scene and finding his place amidst all “the drunks, the barflies and the hacks up on Burke Street” (“Come Down”), each song on his latest release Sweet Impossible seems to bring a new angle to his story. The strength of Chapman’s previous work is its empathy for anyone who has shared his struggles and he’s done an admirable job of staying on that thematic pathway while maintaining a healthy dose of cross-genre accessibility. It’s a little bit pop, a little bit roots-country and a little bit rock, all in a neat little package of self reflection. He’s not one to limit himself musically, but he still wears his influences on his sleeve. Steve Mason’s (Jars of Clay) guitar gently weeps on “Never Have to Go,” which possesses a melody that would sound right at home on the Beatles’ White Album. Mason’s electric and slide guitar work is very strong overall, particularly on the mostly-instrumental “More Than a Little.” At first listen the opener, “Ready to Begin,” in all of its Cajun funkiness, seems to preface a much more exuberant disposition through the rest of the album. Upon further review, however, the key to the track is the last line where Chapman states that “It won’t be easy,” which serves a perfect lead-in for “The Hardest Part.” Here, Chapman’s creative struggles exacerbated by a bad case of a broken heart are much more in the album’s true spirit. It’s a far cry from a tearjerker as a whole, however, as there’s plenty of good nature to be found on Sweet Impossible.

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals — Cardinology For all of the drug-related problems and breakdowns that Ryan Adams ( has suffered over the past few years, he has still been an incredibly prolific songwriter. Counting the three albums with his band Whiskeytown, the 34-year old Adams just released his 13 th album since 1995. Quite a prodigious pace, especially when you consider that it took someone like Bruce Springsteen until age 55 to reach the same level of production. While you can argue that Adams has simply mailed in a couple of those efforts, his work has been consistently good by and large. However, Cardinology will make you forget about the man’s shortcomings — whether they are in the studio, on-stage or whatever. It’s simply a beautiful album. The production is crisp like a new one-hundred dollar bill and Adams boyishlycharming voice has taken on a more mature timbre. He’s always been a polished vocalist, but there’s a certain depth that hasn’t been heard since 2002’s Demolition. His gently wavering vibrato sounds similar to After the Gold Rush-era Neil Young, particularly on the album’s haunting first single “Fix It.” The songwriting is sweet, sentimental and occasionally hilarious, as is the case with “Magick.” The line “Water tower burned up to the ground/zombies runnin’ all around” paints a dour vision of the future, but is really a cleverly disguised slight to some deserving shrew. All of the credit for a great album shouldn’t fall squarely in Adams’ lap, though. The Cardinals were a godsend to him at a critical point in his life and it’s their spacey country sound that pays the proper complement to Adams’ balladry.

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