It may appear that Follow the Lights is just a brief companion piece to the Easy Tiger full-length, released earlier this year. But even on first listen it’s evident that it’s more than that. It’s a far too cohesive work, with a distinctive sound of its own. It’s also the second record attributed to Ryan Adams & The Cardinals — the first being 2005’s Jacksonville City Nights — and it certainly feels more like that countrified wonder.
Though only a half-hour long, Follow the Lights is a tight-knit work that plays out like a Sunday morning (perhaps a hungover one). The disc opens with the title track, a lush folker filled out by the Cardinals. Adams advises wistfully to “follow the lights that line the street connecting telephones,” all the while recalling the delicate and pensive songwriting of his breakthrough Gold (2001).
Later, the band re-imagines Adams’s faux new-wave single, “This Is It,” the Willie Nelson/Cardinals collaboration “Blue Hotel,” and Alice in Chains’ “Down in a Hole” as whiskey-soaked blues. The EP is capped off with a couple of excellent live-studio recordings, including the heart-wrenching ballad “If I Am a Stranger.”
Though Easy Tiger was certainly a creative success, it also seemed to be recorded for fans who had followed Adams throughout his rapid stylistic changes. Follow the Lights, on the other hand, highlights the band as a sort of modern-day version of the Band. It also hints at the fact that Adams’s career just may be on an upward swing.