Ryan Adams has never been one to hide his influences, and on his ninth solo album, he favors Harvest-era Neil Young, with a bit of Jerry Garcia in the guitar lines. Easy Tiger is arguably Adams’ most consistent and varied effort since Gold, though it still might leave you wanting a little more.
Adams has been criticized for being too prolific, but that’s not a problem an inner-editor can’t solve, and certainly no crime. The real hitch is that he has a short attention span. He writes great songs but also puts out ones he hasn’t quite finished, and his studio performances with the Cardinals can suffer a similar fate.
Consider two pieces from Easy Tiger. “Two Hearts” is as catchy a piece of country-rock as a Flying Burrito Brother could have imagined, and the execution is flawless. “Halloweenhead” boasts the propulsive chug of a late-period Beatles tune, but the band is feeling its way, and when Adams shouts “guitar solo,” it’s clearly a cue, even though the instrument sounds like a synthesizer.
There’s plenty to like, including the sweetly loping ballad “Two” (“It takes two and it used to take one”) and “Tears Of Gold”, a country waltz dancing on a jittery drum pattern. Mandolin and banjo mingle in the bluegrassy “Pearls On A Swing”, while the piano on the verse of “The Sun Also Sets” suggests one of Adams’ more famous fans, Elton John.
“Taught Myself How To Grow Old” has the spindly fingerpicked guitar lines and blasting harmonica of a vintage Neil track. But Young cultivated his catalogue with greater care than Adams, and is only now releasing his back pages. That’s why Adams continues to frustrate, even as he fascinates.