After Ryan Adams’ startling debut, Gold, in 2001, he seemed to start spitting out a record every six months or so. By the time he released Cold Roses in 2005, he had apparently run out of steam. Naturally, folks wondered if the thirtysomething singer-songwriter could ever again summon the shine of his debut.
Adams now delivers Easy Tiger, and fans will be happy to know the heroic singer-songwriter has rediscovered his full vocal and lyrical capabilities, even if the wear and tear on his vocal cords appears to have tarnished his spirit, leaving behind a rusty, tired feel. The sparsely tender “Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.” encapsulates possibly the entire album, a throwback to Adams’ Whiskeytown, North Carolinan roots. Its calm introspection suggests that Adams sat quietly on the back porch with an acoustic guitar and thought about Life-with-a-capital-L. In the forlorn “The Sun Also Sets,” he issues a bitter lament: “I didn’t know that people faded out, that people faded out so fast.” Traces of his youthful enthusiasm have vanished in favor of experience-tinged resignation.
One reason Adams may be so prolific is that he gleans inspiration from the most mundane sources, and on Easy Tiger, he sees living the high life as a burden, not as the rush it used to be: “Shuffle down to the watering hole,” he sings on “Off Broadway.“ Getting tired, and I want to go home / I don’t know where that is anymore.” As on most of the other songs, the sentiment is punched up by simple acoustic strumming and heartfelt singing. Simplicity, in Adams’ worn hands, is a vibrant palette from which he can create an infinite number of melodies and lyrics. Easy Tiger, his ninth proper studio production, transcends hipster pretension and is a masterful entry in the Americana canon.-Caroline Collier