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Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams' country-music influences move to the background or foreground, depending on the project. Easy Tiger is an effort to seamlessly blend rock, country, folk and blues à la Adams' 2001 breakout album, Gold. While Gold glittered with a slew of sunny, major-chord pop songs ("New York, New York," "Firecracker"), Easy Tiger is a more tamed beast. Which isn't to say that Adams doesn't dole out the hooks--"Goodnight Rose" and "Two Hearts" are some of the most infectious songs he's written. It's just that there's a certain melancholy thread that runs through these 13 tracks.

The guitar-crunching "Halloweenhead," for instance, could be a Rivers Cuomo construction if not for Adams' foreboding lyrics: "Head full of tricks and treats / It leads me through the nighttime streets." It's a great rock single, even if it's a bit out of place, jammed between the lovely California country-pop of "Everybody Knows" and the spare and existential Leonard Cohenisms of "Oh My God, Whatever, Etc."

It's not a stretch to note that, lyrically speaking, Easy Tiger stalks the same interior landscape as Adams' misunderstood triumph, 29. Only this time, the lyrics are put to music that's more expansive and interesting. For example, the jazzy piano ballad "The Sun Also Sets" is surprisingly moving and melodic, while the hard-core bluegrass of "Pearls on a String" simply resonates with North Country harmonies (courtesy of Adams' backing band, the Cardinals). Easy Tiger is easy to listen to and hard to remove from your CD player.

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