With the release of Easy Tiger, critics are eager to celebrate the return of Ryan Adams,
alt-country savior. The truth, though, is that aside from self-indulgent
missteps – Demolition, anyone?
former Whiskeytown frontman never left. Sure, he took a well-deserved breather
last year after releasing three studio efforts in 2005 (among them, the
impossibly delicate 29), but rarely
since the heyday of Bob Dylan has an artist been pulled in so many different
directions by his fans. Some pine for a hefty helping of down-home country.
Others prefer Adams the precious balladeer. And then there are the ones still
demanding the more aggressive, Gold-era
rock ’n’ roll inspired by the 32-year-old’s punk roots. A single album hardly
ever satisfies all three camps.
Easy Tiger, Adams’
most concise effort since 2000’s Heartbreaker, might just do the trick. Re-teamed with the
Cardinals, his longtime backup band, he is once again crafting fat-free
country-rock anthems, and the result is his most well-rounded, commercially
viable record in years. From the blistering, riff-driven strains of “Goodnight
Rose” to the melancholic refrains of “I Taught Myself How to Grow Old” – a
down-tempo confessional that resonates with all the understated passion of Harvest-era Neil Young – Adams seems intent on technical
perfection. His irrepressible melodies are perfectly suited to his tender tenor
and the casual hooks are immediately inviting; if the whole affair seems a bit
too polished, that’s no accident. Though Easy Tiger may lack the raw, spontaneous feel of 29 and Jacksonville City Nights,
it is the versatile and supremely disciplined album
many Ryan Adams fans have been waiting for since his Whiskeytown days.