Thursday, September 13, 2007

Music Review" Easy Tiger By Ryan Adams

Writing a review of Ryan Adam’s latest album, Easy Tiger is proving to be impossible for me. Though it came out several months ago, and though I bought it the day it came out, I am just now able to put words together about it.

Even now I have struggled, as this is my third draft.

Ryan Adams runs me ragged, emotionally speaking. He has a way of piercing right through my guts with his voice and his words and his music like nobody else this side of Gillian Welch. No one else can manage to lay me down in a puddle of weeping like this man.

Add to his songs some intimate, private, personal baggage and you get me staring at my computer saying once again “I just can’t write about this yet.” And still I find myself compelled to get it out.

Easy Tiger
is a good, and possibly great album. It has been called his most consistent album in a long while, and you can quickly see why. The songs stay clean and fresh, daring not to venture into electrified jambandedness, or New Wave punkishness and steering clear of Adams’ usual erratic self.

On tour behind this album Ryan and the Cardinals sit on simple stools in a semi-circle playing acoustic instruments in a close-knit round. The album retains that friends in a living room vibe. It is laid back, and warm, and mostly really really good.

Though it is not billed as such this is very much a Ryan Adams and the Cardinals record. In fact at this point, you might as well just call Ryan a Cardinal, for no longer is the group just his backing band, but a central part of Ryan’s overall sound.

It is not entirely a new album, as at least two songs appear in unofficially released albums, that have long since found their way into bootleg circles. Though this has been decried by some fanboys, I find the slightly different arrangements pleasing and their inclusions non-distracting.

One slight problem with the consistency here, or at least with the consistently laid back sound is that I find the album sort of blending into itself about the half way point. When paying attention with my listening via the headphones I find all the songs appealing and interesting and just swell. But if say I have it more in the background while I’m doing dishes or whatever, nothing in the back half stands out.

I find myself wondering what song it is on, and how much longer there is to go. As background music, it is great, but it still remains kind of unremarkable in that setting.

Sheryl Crowe makes an appearance in the beautiful, haunting “Two” though you wouldn’t know it if the liner notes didn’t mention it. It is billed as a duet, but she is actually pushed back to singing back up lines in the chorus. There is no solo versus for her or even a sweeping swoosh like Emmylou got in “Carolina.” Still it is a pretty song and her voice helps it along, it just isn’t too noticeable to these ears that that voice belongs to her.

The album is a good one, and I find myself turning to it more and more often when I reach for my Ryan Adams fix. Even if I do find myself in an emotional stupor after the fact.

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