Easy Tiger

Having failed to die young, disappear at sea or get his body stolen and burned in the Mojave Desert, Ryan Adams had no choice but to make a professional country-rock album. Easy Tiger is Adams at his most consistent and measured, as slick and slow as an old Bread record, even in wasted laments like "Tears of Gold" and "I Taught Myself How to Grow Old." Since he's built his reputation on wild inconsistency, allowing himself inspired whims like Cold Roses, this is a strangely atypical Adams record, just because it's his first typical one. For the only time since Gold, he wants you to notice how hard he worked pulling it all together. The set list feels winnowed down — "Off Broadway" goes back nearly six years. Some of the arrangements could have been even more winnowed down (he tends to equate somber piano with deep feeling). "Two" is a maudlin Sheryl Crow duet (at least it's not Norah Jones again). "Everybody Knows," "These Girls" and "Off Broadway" define his ballad style, but Easy Tiger is actually best when it rocks out, as in "Goodnight Rose" (a Cold Roses-style Dead takeoff) or the garage-rock goof "Halloweenhead."

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