A book on Ryan Adams that is as honest as they come

RYAN ADAMS & THE CARDINALS: A VIEW OF OTHER WINDOWS
Neil Casal
Abrams Image (hardcover, 160 pages, $24.95)

By Tierney Smith

This collection of over 200 photos (both in b&w and color) takes an up close look at alt singer-songwriter Ryan Adams’ life on the road with his backing band The Cardinals as seen through the lens of Cardinals guitarist Neal Casal. Taken between 2005 and 2009, these images offer an unflinching look at the downside of a working musician’s life, which involves a lot of drudgery and precious little glamour.

Most of these photos find Adams looking tired and disheveled, whether he’s banging out song lyrics on his trusty typewriter or looking catatonic as he sits slouched in the recording studio with Willie Nelson. We see glimpses of Adams & The Cardinals at soundchecks and backstage, all the while enjoying what turns out to be a very real camaraderie. As pedal steel guitarist Jon Graboff notes here, the more time the band spent together, the more they liked each other.

Especially telling are the band member quotes scattered throughout the book, as well as some openly revealing reflections from Adams himself. Recalling the days when albums meant something, Adams calls his band “believers” who “believed hard” in creating rock ‘n’ roll magic. When the sense of magic gave way to a disillusionment with the music business Adams left The Cardinals in 2009 to take a hiatus from music.

Adams’ own take on these photos is telling. As he puts it, they “hurt” (“I see a man tortured, not eating, not sleeping, miserable. I see friendships falling out of the windows of the museum.”). Stating that he doesn’t miss those times, he admits to a prevailing unease in social situations. Performing a concert, he writes, meant fighting “my desperate need to just run away.”

With an admiring Afterword by Phil Lesh, “A View Of Other Windows” is as honest a road picture book as they come.

Leave a Reply