, Ryan Adams's ninth solo studio album, is a return to form in every way. He's already shown that he can bash out three albums in one year--not to mention the hilarious fake hip-hop records posted for free on his Web site--and that he can sound as much like the Grateful Dead as he wants to in his constant subsequent touring. Backed once again by Neal Casal's band the Cardinals, Adams synthesizes and refines his approach to smooth, gorgeous country-pop. "Tears of Gold" is one of the best songs he's written in ages, while "Two" is a slowly percolating, sweet little number that recalls Sean Hayes in its soulful folksiness (someone named Sheryl Crow accompanies Adams on vocals). One of the greatest treats of this languorous, twangy album is the subtle ways that genre gets played with. "I Taught Myself How to Grow Old" is the best Harvest
outtake Neil Young never wrote, while the treated, synth-sounding guitar solo on the druggy, chooglin' "Halloween Head" sounds like it comes straight out of Journey. And "The Sun Also Sets" sounds more than a little like Rufus Wainwright covering Fred McDowell's "Write Me a Few of Your Lines." It bursts with enough melodrama as to border on musical theater. But, as is clear on these songs of love and loss, Adams has always been at his best when giving into his most mellow, dramatic side. --Mike McGonigal
No-one could ever accuse Ryan Adams of being work shy. After all, Easy Tiger is the ninth album he's released in seven years. However, the finger often pointed at him is about the consistency of those albums.
It's a fair point to make. Unlike most artists, Adams seems to have no self-editing process, preferring instead to simply release everything he records, including some very odd fake hip-hop nonsense - though he did at least have the decency to give that away for free through his website. Rest assured, when he bites the bullet, there'll be no Jeff Buckley or Tupac style post-mortem product to put out.
Thankfully, when that day does come, Easy Tiger will be hailed as one of his finer efforts. Once again, he's backed by the Cardinals and deep in alt-country territory, and the album is one of rich beauties and poignant moments.
Its success comes from Ryan sticking to what he does best; produce stirringly tender songs that offer as much in expansive passion as they do in quiet introspection.
'Off Broadway' and 'Oh My God, Whatever, Etc' both tug at your emotions as they meander along, 'Rip Off' manages to mask a punching lyric with a lush melody, and 'Two', resplendent in its off-kilter chorus, understated harmonies - provided by Sheryl Crow - and tear-jerking lyrics, is his finest slow-burner to date. In short, expect your heart to break, your eyes to moisten and your mind to wander.
Of course, this being Adams, there are a couple of less pleasurable flashes, and it's a toss-up between whether the awful Neil Young rip-off 'Tears Of Gold' or the moment in 'Halloweenhead' when he decides to add a B to his name and shout 'Guitar solo!' takes the crown.
But both are forgivable for the sheer beauty that surrounds them. Ever an unpredictable artist, Ryan Adams has upset the expectations once again with Easy Tiger by producing an album of genuine coherence and stability. Irregular service has been resumed. --Chris Long
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