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Easy Tiger
Artist: Ryan Adams
Label: Lost Highway Records 
Length: 13 tracks / 42:33

"I didn't know Neil Young had a new album out." 

That was my initial reaction upon hearing the first track of Ryan Adams' new album, Easy Tiger. There's something about Adams' vocal phrasing and the country-tinged rock of his backing band, The Cardinals that makes a lot of these songs sound like long-lost outtakes from Young's Harvest or After the Gold Rush There's a directness to the music and the lyrics that makes Adams sound fresh, rejuvenated.  Much has been made of Adams kicking drug and alcohol addictions shortly before making the album, and those experiences seem to show up in the lyrics.  On the first single - "Two" - he sings the refrain "I'm fractured from the fall / and I wanna go home / It takes two when it used to take one / It takes two when it used to take only one."  There's a sense of brokenness and yearning but there's also a sense of hope and redemption and a longing for connection.  The rest of the album veers from gentle acoustic numbers ("I Taught Myself How to Grow Old"), country-rock ("Tears of Love"), and crunchy classic rock ("Halloweenhead").  On "Holloweenhead" the usually serious and self-conscious Adams seems to be having a lot of fun (like when he yells "guitar solo!"), and manages to turn a potentially fatally-cheesy refrain ("I've got a Halloweenhead / head full of tricks and treats") into an infectious and affecting anthem. 

On Easy Tiger the prolific Ryan Adams has reigned in some of his excesses and channeled his considerable talent - not to mention his new found sobriety - into a consistent, understated gem.  Thereís nothing flashy here - just good solid songs that deserve repeated and careful listening.  The lyrics are sometimes clever (on "Oh my God, whatever, Etc." he sings "Iím open all night and the customers come to stay / and everyone tips but not enough to knock me over."), sometimes heartbreaking ("I've got a really good heart / I just can't catch a break / If I could I'd treat you like you want me to, I promise" from "Two") and always literate and thoughtful.  The music is beautifully and subtly performed by Adams and The Cardinals. 

This is definitely some of his best work, as good as his 2001 album Gold but not quite as ambitious and thus more focused.  I anticipate Easy Tiger will be on my regular rotation for quite awhile yet. 

Joey Royal  August 23, 2007