Ryan Adams

Easy Tiger (Lost Highway/Universal)

Ryan Adams' well-documented, newfound sobriety hasn't changed anything about the artist really. He's still consistently unsure of himself, pondering relationships and his role in them, and now coping with his own flaws. Easy Tiger sounds like a culmination of his last five years; it recalls the Grateful Dead sound he explored on Cold Roses, as well as the country-folk of Jacksonville City Nights. For a music fan, Adams is great—he's so prolific, we never have to worry about writer's block. But for one paying close attention, some of his cuts over the years are marred by trite lyrics and would serve much better as outtakes. There are about three duds on this record, with the most obvious being "Halloween Head," a straight-forward, catchy rocker that has the insufferable task of describing his head as "full of tricks and treats." But these moments are few and far between, and there are some real gems here. Adams' familiar, down-home storytelling shows up on "Tears of Gold," which is accented by a distant, weepy pedal steel as he describes an impending rapture. The mandolin-backed "Pearls on a String," one of Easy Tiger's best, has an air of redemption in it; something that the often-cited cocky Adams has been absent of. He's always been reflexive, a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, and a lot of Easy Tiger sounds like an apology to himself. Ultimately, it's his openness that has sustained Adams' career; now instead of spilling about lame chicks who've burned him, he's dishing on someone he hasn't known for awhile—Ryan Adams—and if he's kept your attention this far, you'll be further ensconced.

 
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