The first time I heard Ryan Adams, I was coming up Ocean Parkway from Gilgo Beach while a friend played Love Is Hell. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before, but the material was rich in both style and substance, and I was instantly hooked. That was in 2005, the same year that Adams, along with his incredible band The Cardinals, would release three albums of new material: the double-album rocker Cold Roses, the hootenanny that is Jacksonville City Nights, and the bare- boned 29. Coming off the two years of touring that followed is Easy Tiger, the ninth album in total from America’s most captivating and transcending songwriter.
Opening with the rollicking good time of “Goodnight, Rose,” Easy Tiger commences in bloom. “Two,” the first single from the album, features a backing vocal from Sheryl Crow, and it’s hard not to smile at the mental image of the two of them singing to each other. Easy Tiger packs enough casual, flirtatious attraction that you can pick it up at any point and still be a needle to the groove. To clap your hands to the bridge of “Tears Of Gold” is to wrap your head around the echoes of “Off Broadway.” All the tracks featured here take you right to the front door of the places you need to be, free of overindulgences. Adams is a rare talent that can say more in 38 minutes than others can say in a whole hour. As the audience, we digest Easy Tiger without having to think about what is beyond the context, because with Adams, the attraction is in already knowing and feeling. “Drop me a line, I wanna know how it all works out / I had a feeling we were fading out / I didn’t know that people faded out so fast.” Yep, I know how that goes, and “The Sun Also Sets” is only one of the places in time that Easy Tiger can bring you back to.
If you track the progression of his career, Easy Tiger is the best example of Ryan Adams as an artist in control, and the purest example of The Cardinals as a recognizable force. The tasty interplay on guitar between Adams and Neal Casal is accented by Jon Graboff’s pedal-steel work, while Brad Pemberton and Chris Feinstein hold down the bottom end with authority. If it comes to be that this is Ryan Adams’ peak, then Easy Tiger will forever look out over Mt. Everest. But for the time being, let’s just be easy about things, and embrace the now.