Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Having been a Ryan Adams fan for quite a few years now, I feel like we've been through a lot together. From dramatic spats with Jeff Tweedy and answering machine messages left for Jim DeRogatis that border on harassment to the drug-addled Rock n' Roll phase, to the even more recent, also drug-addled Grateful Dead phase, it hasn't always been easy to defend his honour. Now with the release of Easy Tiger, we enter yet another phase in Ryan's ever-changing public persona: the clean-cut, alt-country roots just like the old days.

Easy Tiger is full of the kind of songs you listen to when you want to wallow over that lost love or you're trying to polish off that bottle of Jack-- or maybe just when you want a dose of Ryan Adams at his best (or most predictable-- it's a toss up, depending on who you ask). While only one track borders on actual rock ("Halloweenhead"), the album looms large with ambitious, melodic tunes rich with banjo, steel guitars, and harmonica. While the formula of the album seems, at first liten, to follow close on the heels of 2005's Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights, and 29 respectively, there's more certainty to Easy Tiger, and more of a formula that gets better as it goes on, if not vaguely monotonous. Tracks like "Oh My God, Whatever, Etc." and "Off Broadway" take on a folksy, singer-songwriter feel and are lovely but admittedly blend into one another a bit and don't stand out as strong individual tracks. That is the general problem with the album, though: while as a complete LP the album is cohesive and strong, individually the tracks seem slightly mediocre.

Lyrically, Adams is at his best on this album; his prose is sometimes blatantly sentimental, but still coherent enough to be relatable. Admittedly one of his biggest gifts is his voice and the myriad of ways he's learned to employ it over the years-- he can easily switch from a rock-driven rasp to an emotional falsetto at the drop of a pin, and it adds immense emotional volume to his musical landscape, which would probably seem a little drab and not necessarily very worthwhile without it.

All in all, Easy Tiger is a great return to the Ryan Adams that we got to know years ago, but it admittedly lacks the sparkle that was behind songs like "New York, New York" or "Answering Bell". But that's what happens when you're in it for the long haul; it gets hard to discern if you're bored or just comfortable. For now, I'll go with the latter.

Ryan Adams - Halloweenhead
Ryan Adams - New York, New York
Buy Easy Tiger on iTunes

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