Ryan Adams has indulged his every artistic impulse: In 2005, the former Whiskeytown frontman released three studio albums (including one double-disc set), and last year he posted on his website more than a dozen CDs’ worth of goofy hip-hop and crusty punk rock under a variety of pseudonyms. Adams’ range is undeniably impressive (check out the pitch-perfect C+C Music Factory impression on DJ Reggie’s East Side Story). Yet the surplus of material has made it hard to remember how potent his alt-country vision can be; Adams hasn’t really made a record you can listen to from beginning to end since 2000’s Heartbreaker.
Until now. Recorded with his current backing band, the Cardinals, Easy Tiger plays like a tightly focused best-of compilation from Adams’ past six or seven efforts: You get deep-twang country rock (“Goodnight Rose”), fuzzy new-wave pop (“Halloweenhead”), some mellow Workingman’s Dead-style Americana (“Rip Off”), a little old-school mountain music (“Pearls on a String”), and a handful of acoustic emo-folk ballads that mercifully dial down the scenester-brat petulance that has become Adams’ calling card. Lyrically, too, he stays away from the sweeping sub-Springsteen poesy that bogged down his ambitious 2001 album Gold, singing mostly about girls and their ability to hypnotize. At last, Adams has rediscovered that power himself.